Veterans with sight loss urged to step out for charity’s 500-mile challenge
Scottish War Blinded hopes the challenge will help veterans realise that sight loss is no barrier to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
A 97-year-old Second World War veteran is urging other veterans with sight loss to take part in a charity’s 500-mile walking challenge.
Scottish War Blinded members of all ages will step out in an effort to collectively clock up 1,117,500 steps, equating to a 500-mile distance, over a six-week period starting from May 6.
The challenge aims to support Scottish War Blinded veterans in being more active, particularly those of older age, uniting them in exercise and proving that sight loss is no barrier to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Gordon Mills, 97, from Edinburgh, came up with the idea for the challenge after experiencing the benefits of walking himself.
The RAF veteran, who has the eye condition macular degeneration, said: “I’ve always been into walking. The idea came to me after an 85-year-old friend, who was feeling unfit, was recommended to start walking by his doctor.
“He was told by his doctor that a good walk would do him good, and to try a walk every morning or evening just for an hour or so.
“It’s not as difficult as it may sound.”
Mr Mills regularly attends Scottish War Blinded’s Linburn Centre in West Lothian and last year experienced skiing for the very first time through the charity.
Army veteran Bryce Campbell, 84, who has glaucoma and also attends Scottish War Blinded’s Linburn Centre, is among those planning to take part in the challenge.
He said: “It’s just so good to be up and doing something.
“When I’m at the Linburn Centre I’ll wear that treadmill out trying to knock in some kilometres
“Walking is so beneficial to your health – both physically and mentally.”
The charity is supplying the walkers with vision impairment-friendly talking pedometers and odometers free of charge to track their steps, which will be collated each week.
Scottish War Blinded’s outreach worker team, as well as centre officers at the charity’s Linburn Centre, and Hawkhead Centre in Paisley, will be supporting the veterans as they accumulate steps.
The charity’s rehabilitation team regularly work with any members who are lacking confidence in walking outdoors due to their sight condition, providing tailored route, cane and visibility training with expert advice.
Scottish War Blinded director Rebecca Barr said: “Many of our veterans are keen sportsmen and sportswomen and have been used to leading very active lives.
“For some of our older veterans especially, being outside and keeping active when you have a sight condition can at first feel very daunting.
“Our rehabilitation team, outreach workers and centre staff work with individuals each day to help our veterans build up confidence, get out and about and stay involved with physical and social activities in whatever capacity suits them best – anything from walking to archery, sailing, bowls and gym workouts.
“Our member Gordon has laid down the gauntlet to his fellow members throughout the country to cover 500 miles collectively, and we’re sure the Scottish War Blinded veterans will relish the challenge. It’s brilliant to be bringing our nationwide members together in this way. Every step matters!”