• Walking therapy 16 October 2017 | View comments

  • 16th October 2017 | By David Jolley

    There is some dismay that older people, including people with dementia, are less likely to be referred for specialist psychotherapy than are people with similar problems who are of working age (younger).

    Should we be bothered? Sitting and sharing worries and thoughts has its attraction and a degree of power.

    One of the lines I remember from Robert Davis in his ‘Journey into Alzheimer’s disease’ is his plea to those who want to help when he gets stuck and frustrated:

    ‘Walk with me – Just walk with me’. 

    So it is in dementia, so also it is for many of us with or without other pathologies. Walking gives a good feeling. Walking with others provides for many an acceptable, even enjoyable, context in which to share of themselves and listen to others.

    Our beloved local park hosts a Health Walk every Monday morning. It is open to anyone who wants to come – but is aimed especially at those who have lost confidence in their physical abilities and so stay indoors where they sit a lot of the time. We are dementia inclusive and dementia friendly but it is not a dementia exclusive company. We walk for about an hour in the park or in the streets and alleys nearby. This includes conversations reflecting on the day, the views, the seasons and much more. After-walk provides tea, coffee or whatever drink and toasted teacake or something else which is good to munch.

    A GP in a Trafford Practice has taken an important lead in setting up similar walks – which she attends and to which she invites all patients on her list who might benefit. The letter from the doctor advising individuals to come on their first walk generated a massive 100+ attendees. I believe the regular turn out is now something like 40 per week – much more than our 10 +/- a few – She has shown what could be done by all practices. It will be a transformative moment if all the other GPs follow her lead.

    This is Therapy for sure – with physical, psychological, spiritual and social components to be accessed as suits you this week. It costs nothing! It does not discriminate. 

    I just hope it can catch on because it gives freedom and independence to people who find they have control over their own health – and can be helping others to find theirs.

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