Surfing, zip wires and disco dancing, how Weekday Wow Factor tackles loneliness

During her 20 years working for the NHS as an occupational therapist, Pasna Sallis noticed a lack of opportunities for older people to satisfy their adventurous side and enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of fun, energetic activities.

So she set up social enterprise Weekday Wow Factor in 2017, helped by support  and funding from UnLtd, to provide a platform for socialising, adventure and exercise for over 50s at risk of loneliness and social isolation in the greater Glasgow area.

Attendees enjoyed the kind of fun usually reserved for teenagers, discovering their inner child through activities ranging from daytime discos to descending zip wires, surfing to speedboating, and ten pin bowling to trampolining.  Pasna says: “When I asked our older people what age they felt after our discos, most said in their late 20s. But our oldest lady – who was in her late 80s – said she felt like a teenager!”

Weekday Wow Factor’s main event pre COVID-19 was their weekly Daytime Disco at the Sanctuary nightclub in Glasgow’s West End where participants enjoyed swing, tango and jive – and even the odd pole dance – alongside food and non-alcoholic drinks. The coronavirus crisis forced the popular discos to move online in March and they now take place daily alongside a host of other activities, such as virtual walks visiting a different place in the world each day to help people leading an inactive lifestyle at home moving again.

The transition to digital was a journey for Pasna herself, as well as her regulars. “I attended the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisation’s networking and learning digital sessions which were really helpful - and slowly we progressed from What’s App video to Skype and onto Zoom, we were all learning together. One lady has managed to go from a traditional landline to using “the Zoom”!”

“The initial Do It award of £5000 from UnLtd in 2018 helped us to set up Weekday Wow Factor and covered the cost of taking a group of older people surfing – most of them couldn’t swim and hadn’t been to the seaside in years.

“The emergency COVID-19 funding we received this year meant we could make our online activities free, enabled me to hire two sessional workers to help deliver them and supported the development of our new website.

“The UnLtd learning sessions were really helpful at the outset when I was trying to establish our values and mission statement, and the networking and peer support from other social entrepreneurs has proved invaluable. I have also joined UnLtd’s Healthy Ageing group working collaboratively with other organisations UK-wide.”

Going online has expanded WWF’s geographical reach well beyond their original greater Glasgow catchment, with people taking part from as far afield as Newcastle. The social enterprise is also hosting virtual Christmas parties for other organisations including Independent Age, Glasgow’s Golden Generation and care homes.  

Pasna says: “UnLtd’s support has really contributed to us becoming unlimited in our potential. Going digital has taken our social enterprise to new territories and we intend to keep our digital activities going post COVID-19 as it means we can reach so many more people. From January 2021, we will offer online activities including daytime disco, walking, yoga, tai chi, keep fit for people with long term conditions, and language classes all for just £5 a week.”

More information at their website or on Facebook.

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