In the days before anyone knew what coronavirus was or had drawers full of face coverings, more than 500 across Moray got together regularly for social events.
The Covid-19 lockdown forced the Ball (be active life long) groups into abeyance for most of the year – pulling apart almost all the members who relied on them for vital interaction, exercise and conversations.
But in the run-up to Christmas teams from Health and Social Care Moray organised a festive walk in Elgin’s Cooper Park to give some the chance to meet up once again.
Friends, some of whom who had been separated until then, swapped Christmas cards before setting off for some exercise.
Along the way the group stopped for quizzes and other games, including a round of guessing the lyrics of some well-known festive songs.
Tracey Peden, social enterprise development officer at Health and Social Care Moray, said: “It’s hugely important to promote any social connection and this walk is an opportunity to safely come together at the moment.
“A few folk are getting back together again but some are still looking for that little bit of confidence that it’s safe.”
The relaxing of Covid-19 restrictions in Moray has already allowed some Ball groups to begin meeting up again.
However, residents in some communities are still missing a venue for the social interaction as confidence continues to build across the region.
Building health walks into everyday life
The Cooper Park walk follows the establishment of similar events across the region in recent years.
Health walk coordinator Claire Buchanan said: “We try to make them for people of all ages and all stages of life, whatever their strength or balance skills.
“Following Covid a significant proportion of communities have had an amount of body unconditioning, so it’s good to build that back up again.
“What we’re trying to do as well is that walking can be a social event they can enjoy with friends on their end, not just a functional thing like walking to the shops.”
Carmen Gillies, senior project officer at Health and Social Care Moray, said: “Walking is one of the preventative methods we use to help people engage with others while reducing social isolation.
“It allows us to better target our services to the right people at the right time.”