Positive effects of being social

11th November 2019

People with learning disabilities in South Lakeland have a social calendar to be envious of. Activities such as a ropes course, zip wire, walks, visits to museums, multi-sports and disco are all on the list.

It’s all happening at the Riversiders Trust at Kendal Day Centre on Dowkers Lane. The Trust was formed when members of the local community, many of whom were parents of people with learning difficulties, took over the running of the leisure clubs from Westmorland Mencap. There are two member-led groups: one for adults and one for children and young people, with approximately 100 members. A wide variety of activities are arranged with the help of specialist support but are chosen by the members themselves.

The three major concerns of members were unhealthy eating, lack of opportunities for exercise and issues with wellbeing connected with friends and relationships. Riversiders Trust decided to address these issues and started the Happy Club.

In 2018, £5,000 from the Brian & Ann Clark Fund, Holehird Trust, Roselands Trust and the Russell Armer Fund contributed to professional sessional staff who took Happy Club members shopping for healthy nutritious food, taught them kitchen skills and how to prepare the meals and monitored weight and general improvements in health as a result.

Kevin Jones, Trustee, said: “We have used the services of specialist health consultants to advise our members on issues such as ageing, failing health and teenage emotional problems to help them cope with changes they are experiencing.”

Sessions are held every Wednesday evening between 4.30pm and 6pm at Kendal Leisure Centre. Members can participate in football or other sporting activities such as fitness classes, basketball, hockey and boccia.
Social groups for 18-30 year olds (Young Riversiders) and over 50’s (Golden Moments) have also been established and they meet regularly for meals out, cinema trips and sports events. These groups have enabled members to build long-term friendships and relationships, leading to better wellbeing and overcoming issues like isolation and loneliness. The social groups encourage members to take part in activities with like-minded people of the community in a safe environment. This helps members to gain confidence through interaction in all kinds of activities to enable them to work together with others.

Kevin continues: “Meeting new friends and sharing new activities are very important to people with learning disabilities. Activities like using public transport, visiting a cafe or bar, going to the cinema or taking part in sport are difficulties that would be impossible for some people who attended these events. We now see them every week, chatting to new friends and generally seeming to be more confident and happy. “We are determined to expand our Happy Project throughout South Lakeland and have just received further funding from the National Lottery for the next three years.”