Chat Central is an initiative run by Voluntary Action Coventry. It aims to help people in Coventry get out of the house, meet new people, overcome social isolation and take up a new hobby.
The group has been instrumental in helping many Coventry citizens in recent months, none more so than Ann Whelan, who is in her 80s. Ann has been living in Coventry since the early 1950s, when she moved here from Ireland.
Ann and Chat Central are working with the regional active partnership for Coventry – Think Active – to inspire more people to take up their own physical challenge and improve their own physical and mental wellbeing. All as part of Think Active’s #MovingStories Campaign.
Ann joined the Chat Central Friday walking group, which is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, a few months ago and has rarely missed an opportunity to get out and take part in the group’s adventures around the city.
“I’m enjoying my Friday walks because I get to explore parts of Coventry I haven’t been to before, after all these years living in the city” explains Ann.
“I have an artificial hip and I’m in my 80s, but I know how important it is to keep moving and staying active. So, groups like Chat Central are a real lifeline and I get to meet new and interesting people and enjoy myself” she continues
“I do on average 3 – 4 miles every day. I make sure to never do a big shop and go the long way round to get what I need from the supermarket every time, to get my steps in.”
Nicky Smith is the Chat Central lead for Voluntary Action Coventry and has been responsible for shaping their programme of events and activities for local people.
“We love meeting people like Ann, who benefit so much from the walks and events. It is important to give people the opportunity to socialise, to move more and to give something back to the city too. Our Friday walking group regular picks up litter and clears rubbish from parks and public areas, we also do art sessions and make sure everyone is engaged and getting something out of it.”
Chat Central and Ann’s story is being shared in collaboration with Think Active’s Moving Stories campaign, to help inspire more people to get out there and give some kind of exercise of physical activity a go.
Abi Dixon, from Think Active explains the motivation behind the campaign and why it is important to encourage more people in Coventry to try something:
“We know how life changing it can be, when a person takes on the challenge of exercise, no matter how big or small that effort is, the positive impact on our physical and mental wellbeing is huge. Ann’s story and the support of Chat Central with something as simple as a weekly walk around the city is just perfect in demonstrating how easy it can be to make a change in your routine.”
Ann has also noticed that the feeling of belonging to a community has been lost over the decades. “People don’t know their Neighbours anymore; I think that’s the biggest change I’ve seen these past few years”.
She says that this is why her walking group is so important, “It’s nice to see the same group of people over and over again, you make friendships and become a community”.
This social interaction is particularly important after feelings of isolation during the pandemic “everyone gets on, it’s really a family and you’re never on your own, plus walking in a group makes you feel safe and secure and that you belong, which is priceless!”
If you’re struggling with feeling isolated and want to be a part of a family like Ann is, there is information about Chat Central and their upcoming events here: Chat Central | Voluntary Action Coventry (vacoventry.org.uk)