The benefits of the natural environment on health and wellbeing have never been more evident than during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Thanks to National Lottery funding, vulnerable older people, including care home residents, will be taking part in outdoor activities in a pioneering project aimed at tackling issues such as isolation, loneliness and immobility.
Silver Saplings, run by environmental education charity Wild Things has been awarded funding of £475,700 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to bring young and older people in the North-east of Scotland in touch with nature to benefit their mental and physical wellbeing while also benefitting the most fragile natural heritage of the region.
Caroline Clark, Director Scotland of The National Heritage Lottery Fund, said:
“The last three months have been a tough time for people across the country, and many of us have recognised the benefits that connecting with nature can bring, lifting our mood and making us feel less stressed and more energised.”
” I’m delighted, that thanks to funds raised by National Lottery players, we can help those who haven’t been able to get out-of-doors enjoy all that it has to offer, forging new friendships, learning new skills and helping look after their beautiful landscape.”
Once restrictions are lifted, activities for socially isolated elderly people will include rock pooling, pond dipping, osprey and dolphin spotting, as well as nature-based crafts and beach walks.
For care home residents with restricted mobility there will be a programme of nature-based activities within the care home setting such as making bird feeders and planting native seedlings, designed to exercise cognitive abilities, fine and gross motor skills, hand eye coordination and concentration
Luke Strachan, CEO of Wild Things, said:
“At Wild Things, we know first-hand that engaging with the natural world has powerful transformative and restorative qualities, no matter what age you are. In the current Covid-19 crisis, our Silver Saplings project is more relevant than ever. “
“We aim to improve both physical and mental wellbeing amongst the most vulnerable members of society, creating opportunities for intergenerational engagement that unite communities and protect some of Scotland’s most unique, beautiful and fragile natural habitats.”
“Wild Things is incredibly grateful for the generous support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund who have made this important work possible, together we look forward to enabling both communities and our natural heritage to thrive in partnership.”
Sheila, a participant in the development of the Silver Saplings project added: “You’re not just looking at four walls. It’s getting that push to get out. It builds your stamina up and makes you feel a lot better. It takes the loneliness away.”
There will also be a programme of outdoor activities for vulnerable teenagers and adults with support in helping them work towards accredited NCFE qualifications.
They will be encouraged to take part in many aspects of nature conservation including biological recording, avian surveys, coppicing and tree planting.
They’ll also have the opportunity to lead session for older people showcasing what they have learned.
The project will run over four years across Moray, Inverness, Aviemore and Fochabers and is expected to help over 3,000 vulnerable people.