Sylvia Miller (71)

After being told she may never walk again, Sylvia Miller hit an all-time low. Until her mid-sixties she had been healthy and active, but a series of health problems led to a long stay in hospital, and upon her return home she struggled to walk even a short distance.

“It was a terrifying time,” says Sylvia. “Not only had I lost all my confidence, hope and direction, but just getting from A to B was such an effort – I really was losing the strength and will to leave the house at all.”

When she heard about a new ‘seated exercise’ class that Brightlife was running at her local community centre, Sylvia was interested but nervous.

“Often you look at these leaflets telling you what’s going on and think, really? At my age?” she admits. “You’re frightened of looking silly when you’ve lost your confidence.”

But Sylvia summoned up the courage to go along, and gradually both her confidence and her fitness began to return. Starting with small walks of just a couple of yards on sticks, she was soon walking further than she had ever imagined she would be able to. She now walks up to six miles a week and has even joined her local Nordic walking group.

“I think once you lose something you don’t want to pick it up again because the effort feels so great,” she explains. “I thought I’d never walk again, but now the thought of walking is a pleasure!”

Sylvia’s experience made her determined to do something to help others in her situation, so she recently signed up as a volunteer buddy for a new food-sharing scheme run by Brightlife partner Community Compass, ready for when it launches this autumn.

“I think I’ll make a good buddy as I’ve still got a bit of fun in me!” she says. “Volunteering will help me too – I’ll enjoy feeling useful and that someone’s looking forward to seeing me.”

Sylvia has come a long way since discovering Brightlife, and it’s a supportive social network that she sees as the key to her newfound confidence.

“Everything feels better with people around you,” she says. “It’s surprising what you can do with a bit of encouragement!”

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