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How social prescribing can help change a life

Newcastle-based Sonia was an avid gym-goer for over 10 years. She suffers from panic attacks and anxiety, and found the gym to be an important place to be able to clear her mind; despite using a walker, the senior-specific classes kept her active, social
and calm.

Then the pandemic hit. Two years of uncertainty were too much for the gym, and it closed. Sonia was devastated, her gentle exercise option gone.

“That let me down quite a bit,” she tells us. “They used to have 13 class options a week, and now there’s none. I did the exercises off YouTube, but it’s not as motivating as being in a group, and there’s nobody to
have a coffee with after.”

How social prescribing has changed Sonia’s life

Sonia was referred to our Beating the COVID Blues program in an effort to support her in re-establishing her connections with the local community, improving her mental health along the way. 

It’s all part of our social prescribing approach, where a Wellbeing Coach works with seniors to coach and support them every step of the way. Goals and health outcomes are tracked, measured and shared with relevant health professionals in
an integrated approach. 

Sonia’s Wellbeing Coach, Simon, identified her needs right away and has encouraged her to get back into her gym routine – starting with contacting some different gyms that may suit her needs.

“I’ve been really down, so Simon has been boosting me up,” Sonia explains. “I’m going to ring up some gyms and find some first complimentary classes to try. He’s even offered to come with me and drive me there so it’s
okay with my anxiety.”

Simon has also connected Sonia with a number of online groups in an effort to get Sonia chatting with more people on a day-to-day basis.

“I’ve become rather shy over the last two years, as I’ve been cooped up at home, and it’s been no good for my mental health. So it’s great that he is coming, and we’re actually going places now.”

The ‘what matters to me’ plan   

With a background in youth work and counselling, Simon has a lot of empathy for his clients and respect for their challenges. He says empowerment is key for his clients – as they are the ultimate experts on their lives.

“I always ask my clients – well, what do YOU want to do? And the look on their faces is incredible!” he says. “They’re so used to being told what they should do – it changes so much when it’s a person-driven approach. Their
entire body language changes, their chin goes up.”

Together, Simon and Sonia have come up with a “what matters to me” plan, with goals in community engagement mapped out.

“He’s a great guy,” Sonia says. “We can joke, we can be serious, we can just talk normally and we feel comfortable in each other’s company. He always tells me that I’m looking brighter when he comes! I always think
to myself – I better not let him down.”

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