The TIF Fund ‘breathes’ life into isolated communities

Posted: Mon, 04 Oct 2021 09:08

The TIF Fund ‘breathes’ life into isolated communities

Covid-19, the respiratory pandemic, has impacted upon so many around the world, but for people living with a lung condition, this impact has been immense. Nottingham West Breathe Easy, a support group for people living with lung a condition, would typically meet in person every month, for 2 hours. The meetings were so important for this group of people. At their meetings they typically shared information, had access to nursing support, socialised, provided each other with peer support, took exercise classes, singing classes played games, and learned specific respiratory exercises. But all that changed with the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Group organiser Teresa Burgoyne says "All our members have a lung condition or carers and felt so, so vulnerable and isolated. They have become deconditioned through the early lockdowns and not able to take part in their normal exercise groups and activities. The social isolation reduced mobility and sedentary behaviour had a negative impact on their quality of life and general health worsened.

The situation provided many obstacles. Our priority was to keep our members connected – our oldest member is 90 and some members don't have a computer, or the internet, so we prioritised making the zoom meeting's accessible to all. We used WhatsApp and Facebook to stay connected, introduced a buddy system and have had help from the British Lung Foundation, the NHS's 'Connected Notts' and Age UK's 'Click Silver'". It's been a true collaboration from some very determined and proactive people in the community, based in the Eastwood area, Nottinghamshire, none more so than Theresa, who has concerns about people with health conditions missing Pulmonary Rehabilitation by not exercising regularly and about the digital resources available to some people. She says "the digital divide is bigger then ever, so giving people access to the internet is absolutely key to feeling part of modern society and navigating everyday life".

We tried Zoom exercise classes during lockdown but it was hard to get people excited by these. They weren't inspiring people enough – people wanted a to get out of their homes in a safe environment."

Prior to the pandemic, the group displayed an incredibly positive attitude to physical activity, despite their health issues. They had tried an indoor bowls class last which had proved extremely popular.

The physical activity was sorely missed during lockdown, and no Zoom exercise classes could replace the excitement and kinship formed in face to face get togethers. The Zoom meetings allowed people to talk weren't alone but not everyone had access to a computer and, Vitaly, it failed to replicate the social aspect of the meet ups.

They decided to get creative and build on the initial success of the bowls and began designing a 'games afternoon' - they knew they needed to get out and get active and this support group was vital to their health and wellbeing. The members knew their added risks were shared, so gained confidence from that when attending.

The pandemic has been really difficult for the group, there's been stints in and out of hospital for some members. The need to be Active and have a bit of fun again, whilst keeping safe was strong.

Group member Winnifred, who lives alone and has a lung condition, "Quite simply if it wasn't for this group I wouldn't leave the house. I do some gardening but nothing socially, so this games afternoon was so, so, important for me."

Theresa and the team carried out risk assessments and chose a spacious venue with plenty of ventilation, before hiring a coach.

Group member Michelle says "We have Boccia and Curling and have had a coach teach us the rules and techniques. It's been absolutely brilliant to learn and great fun, in a difficult period."

Theresa was able to utilise Sport England's Tackling Inequalities Fund to finally bring members together safely. Without it, it's hard to imagine how this group would have been able to keep active through Lockdown.

"The TIF funding helped us to pay for the room, the sanitising stations, the sports equipment and the coaching. We are used to raising money to keep the group going but fundraising has not been possible in the traditional sense. So the Tackling Inequalities Funding has made these games afternoon's all possible."

"Keeping active with a lung condition is so important, if you have a lung condition, you can join your local Breathe Easy group, as part of the British Lung Foundation's wider network, which has so many benefits. Don't feel frightened and prioritise being active for a better recovery and fuller life".

Visit https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/breathe-easy to find your local Breathe Easy Group.

Tags: Active Notts, British Lung Foundation, Covid-19, Sport England, TIF