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Aberdeen support group looks to grow as Scotland marks start of MS Awareness Week

Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland.
Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland.

An Aberdeen support group is preparing to greatly expand its offerings as its members mark multiple sclerosis (MS) Awareness Week.

MS damages the nerves in the body and makes it hard for people to complete everyday tasks including walking, talking, eating and thinking.

Scotland has one of the highest rates of the condition in the world, with more than 15,000 people living with it.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, the MS Society Aberdeen has been forced to quickly move lots of its regular social gatherings and classes online so it can ensure people who may be physically isolated can still keep active and involved.

Many of its members have been advised to self-isolate at home for 12 weeks, as they have an increased risk of picking up infections.

The group currently offers weekly yoga, mindfulness and seated exercise classes, as well as a social group to keep people connected.

And it is found that it has not only helped members stay in touch, but has encouraged those who have had limited interaction in the past to get online and broaden their horizons.

Today marks the start of MS Awareness Week, and it is hoped that even more people will become involved with the Aberdeen group, or any of the 28 other chapters spread throughout Scotland.

Maria Jones of Yuva Yoga has been hosting weekly classes.

Ian Gourley, a volunteer with the MS Society Aberdeen, said: “We started with an online social and quickly started to explore whether we could run our classes and sessions online as well.

“We now have everything we had before available to people from the comfort of their own homes and on the same timetable as well to keep the continuity.

“The engagement we’re seeing is brilliant.

“There hasn’t been a drop in numbers from what we see in person and we expect it to increase, so we may end up reaching a few extra people as we keep things moving.”

The group is hoping to bolster its offering with a number of other activities, including counselling for members who feel they would benefit from it.

MS Society Scotland has also been increasing its output to keep everyone included during lockdown.

It is running several chat sessions every week, giving people the chance to chat and share experiences at a time when they may have fewer opportunities to speak to others in person.

Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland, said: “What the Aberdeen group has been doing in what has been a difficult time for everyone is keeping people at risk of being isolated connected and that is absolutely invaluable.

“With the work they’ve done they’ve not only been able to support each other but provide opportunities for people to get more connected in their wider community.

“We’ll keep offering support to the 15,000 people across Scotland who have MS and encourage people who think they could benefit to engage with their local groups or online sessions.”

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