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Link4Life, is continuing to support the local community get through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic even as the doors remain closed on their leisure centres, Touchstones Museum and Art Gallery and their other live event venues. 

The charity launched ‘Link4Life at Home’ during the first lockdown to offer a virtual alternative to the pre-pandemic sessions, which take place at Link4Life’s venues, helping people stay active, creative and healthy at home. This virtual support is planned to continue for the foreseeable future to ensure accessibility for all.

Alongside activities for children, young people and adults, there are a series of specialist programmes and classes aimed at older adults and those with long-term health conditions, many of whom have been shielding and unable to attend classes at Link4Life centres since March 2020.  Each week, qualified instructors have been running online Zoom classes to help participants continue their exercise programme.

The sessions, which have been developed alongside public health partners, providers and commissioners, support the delivery of specialist health and wellbeing programmes aimed at improving strength, balance, mobility and coordination, with chair based and standing adaptations to suit all abilities.

When discussing Link4Life at Home and the charity’s online classes, Andy King, CEO of Link4Life said: “We know that the specialist classes we provide are extremely important to the health and wellbeing of our community. Regular participants who are managing long-term health conditions and have been shielding, have been unable to visit the leisure centres during the pandemic and will be unable to visit for the foreseeable future.

“Finding alternative ways of staying in touch with those who need our support, and providing exercises and information to help keep them active and healthy, has been vital and we’ll continue to offer this virtual service as long as it is needed.”

Link4Life has also partnered with HMR Circle to support older adults with getting online, providing equipment such as laptops and tablets, in the hope of helping to combat loneliness in lockdown.

The team has provided advice to those with limited knowledge of the internet, including talking through the basics of getting online, as well as more specific help such as how to set up Zoom calls and registering for Link4Life’s virtual activities.

Rochdale resident, Alan Reeves, who has been attending the online classes said “I was uncertain of my ability to access the classes as my computer knowledge is not good, but Link4Life and HMR Circle were able to set things up on my computer and get me connected.

“I started attending one session a week and found that the friendliness and encouragement I received literally transformed my outlook. Prior to attending, I was sitting at home feeling fed up and lonely. After a few sessions I felt encouraged to join another class and consequently felt even better. I am totally hooked on the classes and look forward to them each week.”

Donna Livesey, Head of Sport and Physical Activity at Link4Life said: “Without question, it’s a very challenging time for everybody, but our reliance on technology to keep in touch means that many older adults have been left feeling extremely lonely and isolated.

Connecting with others at this time is crucial, but it comes much more difficult to those whose knowledge of technology is limited or lacking entirely. With this in mind, we wanted to find a way to reach the older population who do not rely on technology in their ordinary, daily lives and expose them to the benefits of being online.

Working with HMR Circle has been a fantastic and it’s great to see how the online classes truly make a difference to older people’s lives, helping people to continue friendships and provide company for those who may have been indoors for the majority of the pandemic”.

For those older adults looking to make use of Link4Life’s virtual support, the Older Adults Support Team can be contacted on 01706 926 235.