Walking their way to health and happiness

Meet the Junction Opals (OurPals) Walking Group – a growing group of neighbours reaping the benefits of pounding the pavement together.

Junction Opals was a community development initiative driven by leading South Australian social enterprise Junction, which supports around 10,000 people each year through housing and services. Now, residents lead the way.

Junction Head of Service Impact Alisa Willis said the group grew out of community conversations with many residents, many older tenants living alone who struggled with isolation during COVID lockdowns.

Four years ‘down the track’ the group, which began with a handful of regulars now boasts up to 40 members – with 15 attending most weeks. While ages of participants vary, and everyone is welcome, most are aged over 55.  

The group makes its way around the Oaklands Park Wetlands on a three kilometre route before ending with a cuppa hosted by Junction at Rajah Reserve. A Junction staff member usually joins the walk and helps organise morning tea.

Since the group began residents have reported increased positive mental health and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression – due to improved social connections.

“One member said she hadn’t wanted to leave her house for 17 years. Now, she looks forward to the group every week,” Alisa said.

David, a regular participant, said the group had helped him connect with his neighbours.

“I’ve been on my own since my wife passed away four years ago,” David said. “Although I’ve got a broad range of interests that gets me out and about I thought it would be a good idea to expand my social circle closer to home. The walking group has got it back on track.”

The group is registered through the Heart Foundation’s Walking Group website – dedicated to promoting good health and community connections.

In addition to the Oaklands Park initiative, Junction has supported the emergence of two new groups – at Mitchell Park and now, Goolwa. The group has also won several national community development awards.

National Heart Week starting May 6 is an initiative of the National Heart Foundation which aims to promote heart health.


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