PARTICIPANTS in a new project designed to encourage over-50s to enjoy the outdoors while keeping active say they are feeling the benefits.

Growing Connections, funded by Brightlife and run at Grozone Community Garden, supports participants in making new friends and learning new skills – or simply rediscovering a love of gardening.

Caroline Rose, Grozone development officer, says the scheme has helped build up a community while improving confidence and self esteem for those who take part.

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“Growing Connections is about getting people of all ages together to do healthy activities that make them feel better,” she said.

"We’re quite flexible in the activities we do, it can be anything from crafts to growing food to cooking.

Northwich Guardian:

"It does everyone so much good in a myriad of ways – the older ones share their knowledge and skills with the younger ones. It’s very enriching.”

Retired service technician Roy Pearce, 69, found the group when he was feeling low after losing his wife of 46 years.

Roy, from Wincham, said: “I do a bit of everything there, from weeding to picking fruit to helping people with learning difficulties saw with wood.

"I needed to tire myself out so I can get a good night’s sleep but it’s also widened my friendship group.”

"While I’m helping them, I’m not missing my wife. They look at me like a father figure and it makes me feel useful – I get as much out of them as they get out of me.”

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Another participant, John Bate, said Grozone had become 'like a second home', adding: "I would be lost without it.

"It has got me out of my four walls and built up my confidence."

Northwich Guardian:

Caroline said the project fills gaps that are needed, offering structure, social benefits and the chance to learn new skills – all while enjoying some fresh air.

“I’ve always had a fear of being stuck inside because of ill health when I’m older," she said.

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"That’s why I wanted this opportunity to be available and I hope it still will be for me when the time comes.

"Thanks to the Brightlife funding, over 30 new participants were introduced to the ‘Growing Connections’ group where they’ve been able to develop and share their skills with a real sense of purpose knowing they are supporting others.

"Whilst this funding has just ended, the existing participants have now all joined other Grozone groups where they volunteer their time to support our other projects and those less capable than themselves."

Brightlife is an Ageing Better project, set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to tackle loneliness in old age.