Korus Connect community connector Jenny Phillips has led the Mall Walkers program at Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre in 2022 and 2023.
In collaboration with key partners, Jenny has nurtured, sustained and grown this initiative, which engages seniors in the City of Casey, to foster a greater sense of social, emotional and physical wellbeing.
The Mall Walkers group meets weekly at Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre to partake in gentle exercises led by a YMCA fitness instructor, followed by walking laps around the shopping centre, and a well-earned coffee and conversation afterwards.
This weekly gathering at the shopping hub provides seniors with an excellent place to gather, as they are sheltered indoors from extreme weather, and enjoy access to a program designed for their unique age-related needs.
Critical to the success of this program has been the joint efforts of Vicinity Centres, YMCA and the City of Casey, who have provided the essential support, resources and funding.
In May 2023, participants in the Mall Walkers group were surveyed to gauge how effective the initiative has been in contributing to their overall wellbeing.
Sixteen participants from the group of up to 40 walkers provided responses, with group attendance fluctuating on any given week due to age-related illnesses, medical appointments and other commitments.
Survey results indicate the overwhelming success of the Mall Walkers initiative with key findings indicating:
· Participants ranked their improved physical wellbeing at 93%
· Participants ranked their improved mental wellbeing at 97%
· Participants ranked their improved social wellbeing at 95%
When questioned about the ways in which their physical wellbeing had improved through the Mall Walkers program, participants provided a variety of responses. More than half stated better mobility was the primary benefit, while one quarter of the group managed to improve their overall fitness. Others identified weight loss and improved flexibility as positive physical outcomes achieved.
In considering improved mental wellbeing through the Mall Walkers activity, almost one third of the participants most valued the acquisition of greater social confidence, while one quarter of participants identified improved contentment and peace. Meanwhile, others perceived the key mental benefits derived from Mall Walkers’ participation as fun, enjoyment, sense of purpose, life satisfaction and overall improvement.
Finally, all survey participants indicated improved social wellbeing because of their time investment in the Mall Walkers initiative. 40% of participants established new friendships within the Mall Walkers ‘community,’ while more than a quarter of the group affirmed the distinct benefit of increased socialisation. Participants shared that being part of this local social network improved their sense of belonging.
Feedback also indicates that social networks initially forged through the Mall Walkers group have sparked new and independent social activities, beyond the Mall Walkers weekly gathering.
In summary, the recent Mall Walkers survey established that the program has contributed to improved holistic wellbeing for seniors who reside in the City of Casey with participants identifying many positive improvements to their physical, mental and social wellbeing.
Further, through exploration of the comments provided in the survey feedback, it is evident that participants most valued the social fabric and cohesion of the Mall Walkers group. This regular meet up in some ways has become a safe space for ‘Mall Talkers’ to congregate.
Korus Connect in partnership with Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre, along with key funding from the City of Casey, has cultivated a community hub where locals can experience a sense of belonging, support and meaningful friendship with like-minded peers. The fact that the program has been a catalyst for new participant-led social activities is most encouraging. The role of the connector and ongoing support of Vicinity Centres, the City of Casey and YMCA have been vital to the collective success and impact achieved.