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Exercise, companionship and better health: celebrating 20 years of Karingal Walkers

Members of Karingal Walkers start and finish their regular walks from shopping center Karingal Hub (Photo taken prior to Covid-19 restrictions). 

Gloria Callery believes the practical and emotional support from a passionate band of volunteers, lies at the heart of the Karingal Walkers’ success over two decades.

“They truly make the difference,” says the Peninsula Health Community Health Volunteer Coordinator.

“These volunteers make every new walker feel welcome, accompanying them until they are integrated into the group.”

Since the first walk around Ballam Park in 2000, Karingal Walkers has grown to become a triweekly morning event, in partnership with Karingal Hub.

Every week on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, around 10 volunteers pull on their bright vests, coordinating the large walking group, often exceeding 100 people.

After setting up registration tables, the volunteers will take down the names and details of new walkers and maintain the records for each participant.

Each walk sets off at 7.45am, finishing by 9.30am. At the conclusion, volunteers join participants for a coffee and a chat in the food court.

The group’s success was recognised in 2016, with the group winning a Minister for Health Volunteer Award, for ‘Outstanding achievement by a volunteer team: improving the patient experience’.

“Our volunteers remember special occasions like birthdays for our walkers, like. They also contact them when they are unwell and can’t make it,” says Gloria.

“It is the social inclusion aspect of the walk that makes it unique.”

“Some of the volunteers with us today have been here right from the start.”

Many walkers hail from Frankston and Karingal, but others travel in from places such as Cranbourne, Baxter and Mornington.

While there is a diverse range of people taking part, the majority are aged over 60.

As Peninsula Health physiotherapist and Early Intervention in Chronic Disease Management Team Leader Kunal Mahajan explains, Allied Health Assistants work with volunteers in providing gentle warm-up and cool-down exercises and monitoring walk participants during their walks.

“It’s a really interesting group, because they’ve been going for so long and everyone is so passionate about them, all members keep a log book of their mileage,” explains Kunal.

“They’ll note how many rounds they make, keeping track of how many kilometres they have done. When milestones are reached, they receive a certificate.”

Kunal’s keen to point out that the Karingal Walk is more than just a walking group, pointing out that regular education sessions are organised (at least four talks per year) for those who come along.

“We get suggestions from the walkers themselves at the beginning of the year, about what types of sessions would be beneficial to them and we’ll run these in the shopping centre,” says Kunal.

“For example, we were planning to have an Occupational Therapist run a session on safety in the home, explaining how to plan your space well and when to put in railings, in order to prevent slips, trips and falls.”

“Last year our Dieticians and Diabetes Educators were involved in the Senior’s Week spreading awareness around diabetes and healthy eating habits”

“Some of the walkers even started as clients of ours and were referred to the group, like someone who had completed our chronic disease group (eg. Healthy heart, Cancer Rehabilitation or Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program) and wants to continue or recommence exercising.”

Covid-19 restrictions means walks are on hold for the time being.

Karingal Walkers is always open to new walkers and volunteers.

For more information, visit the Karingal Hub website or download a registration form and hand in to the Walk Leader on your first walk.