Today, the Government has launched its first loneliness strategy in England.
Many of us will feel lonely at some point in our lives, but when people are experiencing loneliness on a regular basis, this is a big health and wellbeing issue. As a charity committed to helping everyone find their feet and improving health and wellbeing, we share the ambition with the Government to tackle loneliness.
From our experience, we know that people benefit physically, emotionally and mentally when they start to walk regularly. Our group walks provide the opportunity to meet new people, expand social networks, and connect people with their local environment and community.
We therefore welcome social prescribing as a key theme within the strategy. Healthcare providers can refer people to services that connect them with activities within their local area as way of helping to overcome loneliness. The Government has committed to supporting all local health and care systems to implement social prescribing connector schemes across the whole country by 2023, with funding provided to help connect patients to such activities like walking clubs.
Ramblers group walks provide such opportunities for people to join led walks in their local area. These walks help people to meet and connect with new people, while also improving their health and wellbeing. Our groups also offer other opportunities for people to get together such as meals out, holidays and day trips.
The Ramblers Walking for Health programme also works with health and social care professionals to signpost patients to local short group walks. You can read more about the project.
How Marie got her life back on track
Marie Bowen, 48, joined the Staffordshire Ramblers to get her life back on track after the sudden death of her husband had left her feeling isolated and unable to see a future for herself.
“My husband died very suddenly when I was only 33. We hadn’t been married long at all and it felt like I had been robbed of my entire future. People who I’d thought were friends started to drop away after six months or a year and I finally realised that if I wanted to turn my life around, I had to do it myself.
When my mum showed me an article she had read about joining walking groups and I decided to give it a try. It seemed like it might be a good way to broaden my circle and meet people who could become friends, without going to pubs and clubs.
It was a really big deal turning up that first time to meet a bunch of new people, especially on your own. But luckily, the group was really welcoming and some of the people I met on that very first walk are still good friends today.
I’d never really tried walking before either – I thought that first walk might kill me! But I’ve achieved things I never thought I’d achieve and visited some great places.
As well as a way to get out and meet people, and try something new, I also some people who were in similar circumstances to me – it was like a little self-help group, we could talk about our problems while we were walking.
A few of us who had all joined at difficult times in our lives and were also all single at the time also developed a good social life, so it’s not just about walking.”
Green spaces and infrastructure
We also know how important accessing nature and spending time outdoors is for a person’s mental health. Therefore, we are pleased to see that the importance of community spaces and green infrastructure in connecting people is recognised within the strategy with the aim to empower local people and groups to use the natural environment to help loneliness.
Find out more about joining a local Ramblers group walk.