Devon’s Local Nature Partnership has been awarded £500,000 of National Lottery funding from Sport England to deliver a new and exciting five year programme that will support older people in Devon and Torbay to connect actively to nature.
The ‘Connecting Actively to Nature (CAN)’ programme will help over 3,000 inactive people to discover the combined benefits of a more active lifestyle with the psychological benefits that being outdoors in nature brings.
Hannah Colston, Senior Development Manager at Active Devon said: “We know from local consultation that people have a strong emotional connection to our wonderful natural environment in Devon and are very positive about getting active outdoors, but there is a disconnect between that positive emotional connection and actually utilising opportunities to be active outdoors.”
Sport England has put tackling inactivity at the heart of its strategy Towards An Active Nation, and launched the Active Ageing fund to tackle inactivity in the over 55s.
Mike Diaper, Executive Director at Sport England said : “Being active is one of the most important things people can do to maintain health and wellbeing as they age. We’re delighted to be supporting the Devon CAN programme with National Lottery funding to help get older adults lead happier and healthier lives. We’ll be sharing learning so successful approaches can be scaled-up or replicated across the country.”
The partnership behind the successful Devon CAN programme will seek to improve and adapt existing opportunities so they are more welcoming to people who are taking their first steps into activity. It will also create lots of different types of new, informal activity groups designed by the target customers themselves.
“Often it is an uncertainty about the experience a person will receive on arrival at an outdoor activity session that will prevent them from attending” said Hannah Colston. “Fear of getting lost or left behind on a group walk, or there being no toilets on route are very real and common concerns”.
Three hundred and sixty inspirational Volunteer Ambassadors will be recruited over the five years to help people connect to activities, with the aim of making their first steps easy and enjoyable.
The Devon’s Local Nature partnership is an umbrella body bringing together organisations with an interest in securing the benefits of the natural environment. Within the CAN partnership there are 28 organisations that are committed and ready to deliver this innovative five year programme.
Sue Goodfellow, Chair of Devon’s Local Nature Partnership said: “The organisations that have come together to tackle this agenda represent an innovative and exciting mix of environmental, physical activity and conservation type organisations. Some with experience of managing big areas of land within Devon, some with great experience of supporting volunteers. Examples include both Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park, our 5 AONB’s, Age UK Devon and Exeter, Public Health and smaller Community and Voluntary sector organisations.”
The CAN programme will be managed by Active Devon who are an independent non-for-profit organisation inspiring and supporting Devon’s population to lead active lifestyles.
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for health and wellbeing, said: “Devon has a higher than average older population, and nationally people are living longer but with more acquired long term conditions due to physical inactivity. The CAN programme will help more people to enjoy the combined benefits of getting active outdoors and connection to nature. This project demonstrates our local commitment to taking a preventative approach to health and wellbeing, and in keeping our population fit, healthy and independent for as long as possible.”
In Devon and Torbay there are over 122,000 people aged 55+ who are doing less than 30 minutes of physical activity each week, with over 43,000 people suffering from mental health problems. An ageing population locally will see people living longer but with more acquired long term conditions due to physical inactivity. The CAN programme will help more people to enjoy the combined benefits of getting active outdoors and connection to nature.