Every Wednesday, the 'Young at Hearts' gather at Suncroft Community Complex for planned activities, a cup of tea and a chat
The group has been up and running for about a year now. It grew from local efforts by Suncroft Community Development Group and others to improve daily life for older people in the village.
The ‘Young at Hearts’ recently went to Cobh where they visited the Titanic Experience in the original White Star Line ticket office. More recently, they went Nordic walking without leaving home; they just completed a four-week training programme in their community hall and car park using specially-designed walking poles called Fitsticks.
This new programme was a huge success. Over 60 people took part, including residents of Suncroft Lodge Nursing Home. It’s easy to see the attraction - Nordic walking is a total body workout and a health-promoting activity that improves mobility, strength and balance. Group member Marie Foy says, 'I came to all four sessions. Fitsticks keeps me going and helps me to get up and down the stairs'. Teresa O’Neill says, 'I’m bad on my legs. I use the sticks for support instead of my husband!'
Physical fitness is only half the story. The popularity of this programme is also down to the skill and good humour of facilitator Frank Fahey of FitWALK Ireland, whose good-natured banter puts a smile on every face. Teresa Howe says, 'Frank is an excellent teacher. When we leave Fitsticks on Wednesdays, we feel uplifted'.
The joy of social connection is also very evident. It's a hug on the way in from dedicated volunteer Ciara Loakman. It's croissants and scones and a willing pair of hands to butter them, should you find yourself struggling with that task. Frances Byrne says, 'I live in a farmhouse in the country. This is my main social outlet. I love coming to Fitsticks for a chat'. Mary Dillon says, 'I retired from a job in childcare last June. I wondered how I'd keep busy after retirement. Now there aren't enough days in the week. I come to every event that's on; Fitsticks is my favourite'.
The real test of any community initiative is what flows from it. The 'Young at Hearts' know what they want and they don't want to wait for it. They want to keep walking, so they set up a new walking club and arrange to meet on Mondays. Some will use the new Nordic poles that they’ve purchased. All will take things at their own pace.
Rosie and Eileen Doyle completed the Fitsticks programme together. Rosie is a local lady and Eileen is her mother. When asked what Fitsticks means to them, they provide different but very moving answers. Eileen says, 'I do Fitsticks for Rosie. It helps her to stay active and keep doing the things she likes to do'. Rosie smiles and says, 'I'd love to see Fitsticks starting up again. I do it because Mammy enjoys it'.
The four-week Fitsticks programme at Suncroft Community Complex was funded by Kildare Sports Partnership and supported by Kildare County Council's Community Development Team.
Fitsticks Session at Suncroft Community Complex
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