Volunteer award handed to dementia friendly walk leader

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Linda Shields has won an award from Paths for All for her work with those living with dementia

21st September 2018 by Sophie Bell 0 Comments

Just a day ahead of World Alzheimer’s day, Paths for All presented Linda Shields with a Dementia Friendly Volunteer of the Year award at the Scottish Parliament for her work in improving the health and wellbeing of those living with dementia in Stirling.

Linda’s volunteering role involves leading three Dementia Friendly Health Walks a week across the city, promoting the walks and increasing her knowledge by attending talks and seminars. 

On average, Linda devotes more than 20 hours a week to volunteering and there has been a 50% increase in participants on these walks as a result of her involvement.

Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing Joe FitzPatrick presented Linda with the award, a certificate, £250 towards her project and a £30 gift voucher.

The awards ceremony was hosted by BBC presenter Fiona Stalker and saw a number of the nation's volunteers, from the Highlands to the Borders, win prizes for their efforts in transforming paths and parklands, as well as community walking habits in their local areas.

Linda said: “Walking, especially in a group, can be so beneficial in delaying the onset of, and progress of, the symptoms of dementia.

“Our walks offer the opportunity to be in a safe and caring environment whilst enjoying both company and exercise in the fresh air.

"Walkers on our Dementia Friendly Health Walks become our friends and I'm so pleased our efforts are helping create some contented, even happy, moments for them and their loved ones and carers who need this support too.

“I really hope my winning this award encourages more volunteers to join us in this hugely rewarding work.”

Since February 2017 Linda Shields has worked alongside the Stirling Walking Network project co-ordinator to make Dementia Friendly Walking in Stirling a welcoming, supportive and enjoyable experience for walkers and their carers.

Ross McClaren, whose wife May attends a Dementia Friendly health walk, said: "Linda is quite simply my life line, as my wife's health has deteriorated rapidly and her behaviour has become quite challenging.

“This has meant that she rarely wants to go out, but when Linda calls round to take her out she is much more at ease and is quite happy to go out walking with the Friday support group.

“May starts to smile when Linda chats to her and I can’t tell you what a relief it is for me to know that she can still be happy doing things with Linda.”

May is now looked after in a nursing home. Linda visits her regularly and takes her and some of the other residents out on walks.

Joe Fitzpatrick, said: “It is an honour to be in the company of so many hardworking and selfless people, and in particular to hear the stories of volunteers who have carried out this excellent work.

“Paths for All aims to get Scotland walking - everyone, every day and everywhere - and through the passion and commitment of its army of volunteers, it is making that vision become a reality.

“We know that being physically active is one of the best things you can do for physical and mental health, and programmes like this are a great way to get active in a way that best suits you.”

Ian Findlay, chief officer at Paths for All, said: "These volunteers’ efforts in improving the nation’s physical, mental and social health are invaluable.

“Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organisation and we always look forward to this event when we put our amazing volunteers at centre stage.

“Our Volunteer Awards are a chance to thank the country's unsung heroes who work tirelessly, out of the goodness of their hearts, just to see their efforts benefitting others around them.

"Their stories are always inspiring – and this year was certainly no exception.”

Paths for All’s Volunteer Awards 2018 saw seven individuals and three groups win awards across ten categories: Community Path Volunteer of the Year, Community Path Group of the Year, Path Skillz Young Person of the Year, Path Skillz Group of the Year, Health Walk Volunteer of the Year, Health Walk Volunteer Group of the year, Dementia Friendly Walking Volunteer of the Year, Macmillan Walk Leader Award, Step Count Champion of the Year and Volunteer Manager of the Year.

Paths for All works with the Scottish Government and 30 partners to support and deliver national policies, such as the National Walking Strategy and other ‘active travel’ initiative.

The charity donates thousands of pounds worth of grants to worthwhile projects that improve health, promote walking and improve environments for people to be active in.