This accreditation standard from Paths for All means anyone living with dementia and their carers can be assured that their Health Walk is short, safe, friendly and free. They will have trained Volunteer Walk Leaders welcoming walkers to make them feel more confident being outdoors. The short walking routes have been risk assessed to consider traffic, noise levels and lighting throughout the day. Refreshments will be available after the walk to offer opportunities to socialise and reminiscence.
People living with dementia benefit from being outdoors and in contact with nature as it can help to relieve stress, increase self-esteem, produce vitamin D, and exercises the brain, helping with memory and cognitive functioning. Even 10 to 15 minutes of daily walking outdoors can improve the overall wellbeing of people living with dementia.
The Active Cairngorms Health Walks project, managed by the Cairngorms National Park Authority, has a network of 16 Health Walks led by 69 Volunteer Walk Leaders. Six volunteers have been central to the development of the Dementia Friendly Health Walk in Nethy Bridge. This group have undertaken local consultations with professionals, people living with dementia, and their carers to understand what support they might need to participate in the short, local, led walks in their village.
Jane Lilley a Volunteer Walk Leader with the Nethy Bridge Health Walk group said:
“Making our walks Dementia Friendly was not a huge leap for us, as we were already including people with memory issues. However, the course has made us more aware of potential problems and how we can overcome them to ensure that everyone enjoys the health benefits and sheer enjoyment of walking.”
Jackie Farquhar, Health Walks Coordinator for the Cairngorms National Park Authority, praised the volunteers involved in making their Health Walk more accessible.
“We are delighted and excited that Nethy Bridge Health Walk Group has been awarded Dementia Friendly Walking Accreditation by Paths for All. We would like to say a huge thank you to the volunteer Health Walk Leaders who gave so much of their time to learn how best to support people living with dementia; to research appropriate dementia friendly walking routes; and to reach out to those living with dementia, their carers and organisations to understand what is most important about walking when living with dementia. Without their dedication, enthusiasm and willingness to try something new this would not be have been possible. We hope to support other groups in the Cairngorms to become dementia friendly in the future.”