A trouble shared is a trouble halved!
Pat joins a LinkAge walking group and learns that as well as staying active and healthy she meets people with whom she can share her troubles.
“If I ever had a problem, I would get on with it myself. I never had anybody to turn to, I suppose,” reflects 72-year-old Pat. But two years ago, that all changed when she found a surprising support network, in the form of her local LinkAge walking group.
Born and raised in Bristol, for many years Pat led a contented family life, working in a job she loved at the local pharmacy and gladly caring for the people around her.
“I looked after lots of family when they were ill. If anyone needed anything doing it was, ‘Just ask our Pat’ – I was always there,” she explains.
But she couldn’t have predicted that things were about to get much tougher for her. First there was a difficult divorce from her husband, followed by a series of health issues including severe back problems and a cancer diagnosis. Then her son fell into a depression that affected the whole family. Never one to take things lying down, Pat resolved to keep herself busy.
“I think if something’s bad, then pick up the pieces and start doing something else!” she laughs. “Well, you have to, what else do you do? You just sit in a chair and be miserable, that’s not much fun is it?”
She threw herself into working at the pharmacy to keep her mind off her problems. Then, just as she most needed the distraction of work, Pat developed a terrible chest infection. Despite surviving two major operations and even beating cancer, the chest infection was the final straw for her and she took the difficult decision to give up work altogether.
“I don’t give up easily but things knock me sometimes,” admits Pat. “I really felt absolutely exhausted, I just couldn’t go on.”
In this time of need, with her family problems multiplying and her health deteriorating, she found herself with no one to talk to.
“All my friends were always a bit older, so of course they had all passed away,” she explains. “I suppose if I hadn’t been the kind of person I am I could have ended up with depression.”
Then, one cold Saturday morning before Christmas, Pat was sitting at home alone when a leaflet dropped through her front door. It was advertising a new LinkAge walking group, starting in her local area.
“It said there was free mulled wine and mince pies, then a walk,” recalls Pat. “And I thought, I fancy that! Nothing gained, nothing lost.”
Pat’s positive attitude paid off, and she found that the walking group was exactly what she needed. Not only did the walks provide her with some much-needed physical activity, she also found that she was able to open up to her fellow walkers in ways that she would never have imagined.
“I’ve learned to share problems, which I wasn’t very good at before,” says Pat. “I’ve got more confident. You talk to people and you realise they’ve got similar problems – not necessarily the same, but there’s a link between them.”
For the first time in her life, Pat felt able to talk openly about the things that were getting her down. With her fellow walkers providing the emotional support that had been lacking, she began to feel that she could cope with her problems.
“It’s just like a big family, in a way,” she says. “They’re not just walkers any more, they’re friends as well.”
Pat was so moved by her experience with the group that she decided to train as a volunteer walk leader herself. She now helps guide several walking groups and has become a firm advocate for LinkAge, regularly spreading the word to others.
“The whole experience has been brilliant,” she says. “I mention it when I see people on their own, walking by,” she says. “Because some people do need a bit of encouragement!”
*NB: NAMES AND SOME PERSONAL DETAILS HAVE BEEN CHANGED*