2 April 2019 | North West England
Community centre that is helping pensioners stay fit.
When a whole community comes together, anything is possible.
Withington Baths is one of South Manchester's most famous landmarks, over a century old and still thriving today.
But in 2013 it was set to close as Manchester Council wanted to replace it with a new leisure centre. But local residents came together to form a social enterprise to take over the building. Calling themselves Love Withington Baths, they reopened in 2015, with a £150,000 revamp.
As well as the pool and gym, ‘Withy Baths’ now also has a brand new refreshments area, runs a kids summer camp and offers classes from baby massage to street dance. And launching this month will be the first co-working space in the building.
The team at the baths have worked tirelessly to create not just a sustainable leisure facility but also a community asset for anyone from young mums to the elderly.
None more so than Natalie Jones, 34, community officer at the centre. Natalie is all about community. “I saw that there was not much really available for older people other than swimming and that everything was geared around younger people. I thought, that is not right. So I set up a new class.”
The Silver Circuits class is designed for over-65s, whether they can only manage a few gentle exercises from a wheelchair or can confidently jog on the spot.
When Natalie launched the class, she had just two members. Now more than 25 older people join her every Tuesday or Thursday. It has proved so popular that she’s had to open a second session.
“It has been fab for getting the older generation out. Not just for health reasons like losing weight and reducing blood pressure. But also, fundamentally, reducing isolation and improving mental health.
“My class come along, get active and then are able to be sociable afterwards too. A local supermarket donates fresh fruit and coffee so we make the most of that after the class.”
One of her success stories is 81-year-old Eddie Woodward. The pensioner had lung disease after working in coal mines, and his doctor suggested he should go to Natalie’s class.
He was also lonely after losing his wife. Now, one year on, he is doing so well he has come off his medication. His social life has improved as well, going for coffee after class with some of the ladies.
“We need to keep the older community active. They are forgotten about, and that is not fair,” said Natalie. “So many have lost partners, quickly become lonely and then struggle to get out of that loop. But I try and show them it is important to get out, enjoy their lives and stay active.”