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Making a difference
Case Study

MS gym and therapy centre


By chance, a representative of Age UK Wigan Borough met the MS Therapy team when attending a meeting with another group based in the same building. They team talked about their hopes and aspirations for launching a specialist MS gym and the dramatic difference that purchasing certain pieces of equipment could make to their members’ lives. In particular they wanted to acquire a balo machine - a standing, balancing and postural control system. Age UK Wigan encouraged the team to design the project in more detail and helped them to apply for funding.




The local investment panel were so impressed by the balo that they specified that the group should add on a service plan to insure its sustainability.  Following the purchase of the equipment, the MS Therapy group were awarded a second machine by Wigan Council.  This was a huge boost as the only other location of a balo machine at the time had been in Salford Hospital. Meanwhile the group had been busy continuously fundraising under their own steam and had purchased a specialised treadmill and five other pieces of smaller equipment.  They had now created a fully equipped and accessible gym. 



Several months later,  Age UK Wigan attended an open day at the centre along with a member of the local investment panel.  Everyone was extremely impressed by the improvements and expansion of the services now being provided.  It was suggested that the original publicity material, still in use, did not do justice to the calibre of the services available. The MS Therapy group was invited to put in a second application for the design and production of high quality handouts and a pop-up banner. Age UK Wigan again assisted the group with their application, negotiating quotes with a local printer who also designed the brochures. At the same time the group officially changed their name from the MS Support Group to the MS Therapy Centre and a new logo was created. 



WHAT'S GOT BETTER            

As a community hub and specialist gym for people with MS and other mobility-limiting conditions, the MS Therapy Centre has created a wonderful asset for the area local area, and beyond.


Located within the grounds of a local primary school in Marsh Green, Pemberton, it can provide health and welfare services to a particularly deprived area with high levels of poor health.  However, as its reputation spreads its client base widens, with people now coming from as far as Warrington to benefit from the equipment. 


The Centre also now lets out space to hire to other various other therapeutic services and offers Aromatherapy, Tibetan Head Massage, Reflexology, Reiki, Hopi Ear Candle, and Chair Yoga.  The feedback from members is extremely positive.


Because they have been able to produce professional promotional material, the centre’s publicity is reaching more people in more areas – including charities and other third sector organisations.  Additionally, improved links to local hospitals mean that newly diagnosed people are made aware of the centre.  As a result, the initial membership of 175 is set to increase by another 200.


As well as promoting health and healing, the centre provides a good psychological setting from which to cope with the limitations of MS. There is a large lounge area with comfy sofas and tables and chairs where people sit round talking and laughing and swapping stories.


Overall, social isolation has been significantly reduced as older people with MS now have an age friendly environment to visit, not just for treatment but to meet new people and make new friends in a social setting.




The initial investment has worked as apowerful  catalyst for gaining other investment/funding which has enabled the group to grow. The dedication of the team has been invaluable in fundraising activities raising the profile of the venture.




Moving forward the group wants to open up balo therapy to include people with any disability or mobility issues as it allows those with little or no core stability to exercise effectively and safely and, most importantly, while in a standing position. Exercising when standing up has many benefits including making breathing easier, stabilising the circulation and stimulating the metabolism.




Pauline Barraclough

Ambition for Ageing Coordinator

T: 01942 615895