By David Gledhill, Marketing and Communications Lead
FRIENDSHIPS are being forged through fitness classes in the open air – many of which are free to the over 50’s.
For example, an hour-long yoga class takes place every Monday at midday near the Big Tree on the Abbey Meadows in Torquay and dependent on the weather can attract upwards of 30 men and women.
The Yoga class is just one of dozens of meetings and activities across the bay that are providing a lifeline to some over 50-year-olds
For 75-year-old John Austin, that particular Yoga session changed his life, at a time when things were looking bleak following the death of his wife of 42 years.
He had lived in the bay for more than 25 years, but because his work as a business development manager took him away from home from Monday to Friday, he didn’t know many people.
When he finally gave up the work that he loved, aged 73, he had expected more time with his wife, Liz doing things together in the bay or on one of their well-deserved luxury holidays.
But cancer took care of that and having nursed her at their Paignton home until her death last October, John was lost and despite having some friends, caring neighbours and two of his grown-up children nearby, felt desperately lonely.
He worried that turning to the same people too often would be somehow resented and instead spent longer periods by himself whilst sinking deeper into depression.
John had suffered from depression and anxiety on and off throughout his life, but this was as bad as it gets and initially he turned to the Chadwell Centre in Preston but was surprised by his nurse’s advice.
When his nurse suggested Yoga, he thought it was a joke at first: “I dismissed it, and had a dreadful mental image of me with one leg, behind my ear,” he recalled with a wry smile.
Nonetheless, despite his fears – more about meeting others, rather than physical gymnastics – he got up the courage to join the others in the open air at Torre.
It was a big step for him, but one that he is so glad he took. Alongside exercise and mindfulness, he found a friendly welcome and the opportunity to chat with like-minded people.
Those small steps led to more confidence and less depression and less anxiety – so much so that he is about to join a second yoga group on the beach with Jenni Adams and is a regular with Bay Walks.
“I was beside myself with grief, and while I know, I was not alone in experiencing that, it is how you deal with it that counts.
“I was lucky; my nurse and doctors were brilliant. They knew what I needed, and persevered until I was ready to listen,” he said.
John is just one of the thousands in the bay who attend hundreds of classes, meetings, luncheons and coffee mornings held every week and it is rarely just about the exercise or the sustenance on offer – it is about the company and support.
At Ageing Well Torbay we come across people all the time who have been lonely or isolated, and no longer know how to reach out, or if they do, do not know where to look.
Our community builders help identify those people and help put them in touch with something – not always the obvious thing – that helps them start their journey.
For John, it happened to be Yoga – for you it might be railway modelling or dancing – if it a class or meeting exists, we can find it for you. If it doesn’t, we can help create it.
Just this week we have also relaunched our Torbay Together website where you can find out what is happening in neighbourhoods right across the bay and can find opportunities aplenty.
To find out more, go to: www.torbaytogether.org.uk and sign up today. There really is something for everyone, and it could make a massive difference as it did for John who cannot speak highly enough of the support he has received from all he has met:
“From having everything, I felt as if I had lost everything. Since joining that first Yoga session, my life has changed.
“We are so lucky to live here, where there are people looking out for each other. So very, very lucky.”
For more details about the free yoga sessions or any of the activities available in the CAN programme go to: http://torbay.gov.uk/CAN
The Yoga session run until 12 July and then start up in Preston Green from 19th July for 12 weeks. For more information ring Nina on 07847 244810