Saints Foundation ambassador Kenzie Benali sat down for a chat with Margaret, one of our Senior Saints, who has been benefitting from the programme’s support after losing her husband.
Margaret Arthur (86) is no stranger to spending her free time on her feet. In her younger years, she used to sneak out to dancehalls across the city, spending every free moment tearing up the tiles.
“I was always a little rebel,” she reminisced. “My mum used to say to me, I wasn't to go dancing every night of the week, but every night I went, even on a Sunday!”
Throughout lockdown, Saints Foundation’s online sessions have helped Margaret maintain her active side, with many of the exercises set to the 50s and 60s music of her youth. And now restrictions have eased, she’s swapped her dancing shoes for walking trainers – joining one of our Senior Saints Strolls at Riverside Park.
She chatted to Foundation ambassador Kenzie Benali about how the support she’s been receiving has been a lifeline since the loss of her husband, and to encourage others to come along.
Kenzie: Okay, well, this is lovely Margaret – before our little walk gets underway, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Margaret: My name is Margaret Arthur, and I’ve lived in Southampton all my life.
Kenzie: We’ve got that in common. We’re both Southampton girls! And we’re here today for one of the Senior Saints Strolls that are being run by Saints Foundation. Can you tell us a little bit about how you’ve been involved so far?
Margaret: Several years ago, when my husband was in hospital, he was referred into the Senior Saints programme for exercises. I came along with him, but eventually, for some reason or other, we stopped going for a while.
But then out of blue, I had a phone call from one of the team. They asked me if I wanted to come back to sessions, but I said I didn’t because my husband had died. They kept ringing me, checking in to see if I was okay, which did me a lot of good – and then I joined the video calls, and eventually started coming to these walks.
Kenzie: That must have been really tough, Margaret – the pandemic on its own has been really hard, but obviously losing your husband, I can’t imagine how difficult that’s been. Has the support of Saints Foundation helped you in any way?
Margaret: I don’t know what I would have done without it.
Kenzie: Really? That's amazing to hear that they've supported you through such a tough time. And as well as an emotional support, which is obviously so important, have you found any physical benefits from getting involved with the Health sessions?
Margaret: Yeah, I've been doing the exercises. And then we have a tea and chat session as well, on Zoom, and there's all sorts of people that come to the tea and chat. It’s very informative. You know, I've learned quite a lot by just listening to them.
Kenzie: It’s lovely, isn’t it – all kinds of people teaching new skills every week. I know that we've done a little bake-along together, haven't we? We made shortbread together during lockdown. Hopefully yours was more successful than mine. I was too busy talking to everyone, I think!
Margaret: Yeah. And it gives you something to look forward to. Without the hour-long exercises and chats, I don't know what I would have done.
Kenzie: Tell us a little bit about how things worked before COVID.
Margaret: My husband and I used to go to Fairfax House about once a week for [Saints Foundation] exercises. I've tried to go to every session [Senior Saints] have. It's helped me stay active and connected to other people.
Kenzie: I know that they love having you come along for the sessions. And Margaret, I know that we've spoken in the past a little bit about your life growing up in Southampton, and it's so interesting because you were telling me that you used to go out dancing!
Margaret: I was always a little rebel! My mum used to say to me, I wasn't to go dancing every night of the week, but every night I went, even on a Sunday. To the pier, to the Guildhall, the church, and on a Sunday, Irish dancing.
Kenzie: So we’re about to carry on with our lovely little walk and socialise out here at Riverside Park. It's just such a nice thing to be able to do, isn't it?
Margaret: It certainly is.
Kenzie: What would you say to somebody who perhaps, is thinking about joining one of the sessions or hasn't come along?
Margaret: I'd tell them to join because it's benefited me enormously, and I think it would help anybody else as well. If you’ve got a friend who’s interested, bring them along too! The more the merrier.
We have recently returned to delivering the full range of Senior Saints sessions, which includes circuits, seated exercises, walking football and more. Explore the timetable of sessions and register interest in the project below.