AN AYRSHIRE woman has won a prestigious volunteer award for ensuring that locals living with dementia remain part of the community.
Julie Twaddell, from Prestwick, volunteers her time as a director of Dementia Friendly Prestwick, a local charity which helps support people with dementia, their families and carers.
Every Monday, Julie and a group of volunteers go on inclusive walks made accessible for people living with dementia, to support people to remain physically and socially active in their local area – anyone is welcome to come for a walk.
Julie was recognised as Dementia Friendly Volunteer of the Year by Scotland’s walking charity Paths for All at its annual Volunteer Awards at the Sottish Parliament on 10th September.
Julie said: “The support network that we’ve created protects individuals who might otherwise have become socially isolated.
“We have a loyal group of walkers and volunteers who attend the group every week, and together we’ve built a bond that makes us like family.
“We’re out no matter what the weather’s doing and haven’t missed a Monday walk yet.”
A group of volunteers in Prestwick set up Dementia Friendly Prestwick three years ago, with support from people in Alzheimer Scotland, local Health and Social Care Partnership, NHS Ayrshire and Arran and others. Paths for All continues to support their walking activities and their aims to make the promenade more dementia friendly.
The walk starts at the Grangemuir Road end of the beach and goes along the scenic, flat, accessible beach promenade. Depending on the turn out and weather, walks are between 25 to 50 minutes long.
Julie added: “Everyone is always up for a laugh and a blether; it’s great fun and there’s always be tea and biscuits at Parkstone hotel afterwards. I get just as much out of the walks as those attending for support and strength.
“I am honoured to win this award as I feel we have built something really valuable.”
There are now three trained volunteer Walk Leaders enrolled on the programme with an additional three volunteers with dementia awareness training, all committed to helping people across Prestwick improve their physical, mental and social health.
Joe FitzPatrick, Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, who presented the awards said: “Increasing physical activity across Scotland is a top priority, and thanks to the hard work of these volunteers, many more people are now leading a healthier lifestyle.
“It has been truly heart-warming to learn about how they have all had such a positive impact on their local communities.”
Ian Findlay CBE, Chief Officer at Paths for All, said: “Getting outside and going for a walk is so valuable for our own personal health and for the health of our planet, so it’s very important to take the time to thank volunteers like Julie, whose selfless efforts are making a huge difference to the lives of others around her.
“It’s inspiring to think that, collectively, these volunteers who are invested in making walking a bigger part of daily life are helping to incite important behavioural change.”
Paths for All works with the Scottish Government and 30 partners to support and deliver national policies, such as the National Walking Strategy and other ‘active travel’ initiative.
The charity awards thousands of pounds worth of grants to worthwhile projects that improve health, promote walking and improve environments for people to be active in.
Alison Johnstone MSP said: “I am delighted to have hosted this Paths for All award ceremony in Parliament. I share with them their aim to create a happier, healthier Scotland.
“Walking is good for your body and mind, while also bringing positive benefits to communities and the environment, through reducing social isolation and improving air quality.
“Thank you to all the volunteers for giving up their time to keep paths open, and inspire and support others to walk and cycle.”
To find out more about Health Walks in Prestwick, visit: www.pathsforall.org.uk/healthwalkfinder