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Sing Exercise and Tea groups vital in battle against social isolation and depression

By Ewan Malcolm

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THE reintroduction of Sing Exercise and Tea groups (SET) in Moray are proving vital in efforts to re-integrate vulnerable people back into society.

The sessions feature a combination of some light seated exercise, hot beverages and a chat with others.

The weekly get-togethers have been running for more than six years and were initially set up to complement the NHS's fall prevention programs.

However, the groups' benefits have shifted somewhat after a pandemic disrupted year left many vulnerable people separated from their loved ones.

Tracey Peden, Social Enterprise Development Officer for Moray Council, said: "Our aim is to get people feeling more connected to their communities, reduce social isolation and loneliness, form new friendships and support strength and balance.

"It's been so important to get the groups going in person again after the pandemic.

"Vulnerable people really want to take that step back into the community now and we are providing them a chance to do that in a safe environment.

"Everyone has really come on leaps and bounds with their mobility and their mental health since we restarted."

Elgin resident Joan (79) has attended the SET groups for over four years after her husband passed away. Her physiotherapist recommended she attend the 10am slot in Elgin in 2017 to help with her mobility, but she quickly found socialising in the group to be most beneficial to her.

Joan said: "I had attended the same group before the pandemic to stay active but I made some really good friends over that time. When the pandemic shut all that down I started to feel really lonely and it was difficult for me.

"It's been really good for me after they started up again. I've got to see some familiar faces and I just feel a lot better now getting to have a chat and a sit down in a very warm and welcoming place.

"I am still fearful of the situation at the moment. My daughter is the same. The group has been so good to get people back out and about so I'd hate to lose that again."

With Covid-19 cases continuing to be recorded in Moray it remains unclear if the groups will be able to return after they break up for the October holidays.

Ms Peden added: "We will follow the government guidelines to the letter if we felt that there was any risk to our community members. We would put a pause on the sessions until we felt that it was safe again to re-mobilise. Until officials make that decision though we are more than happy to continue our sessions in a safe environment."

The groups currently cater to participants ranging in age from 40 up to 87 and average around 12 participants per session.

Sessions take place at 10am on Mondays and Fridays at Moray Sports Centre for £2.50. A third group also runs on Monday's at 2pm at Lossiemouth High school. Interested parties are encouraged to contact Ann Hay on 07779999261 or to email ann.hay@moray.gov.uk.

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