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6 April 2021

Sports Student Asks Older People for Their Secrets to a Happy Life

A 19-year-old care assistant who has struggled with her mental health asked old people for their secrets to a happy life. Here’s what they told her…

Manchester teenager, Daisy Dalton, who has battled mental health issues, began working as a care assistant to support herself through a degree at University Academy 92 (UA92) in Old Trafford.

Daisy felt that that the older people she cared for could offer words of wisdom to help her manage the anxiety she has battled over recent years.

Daisy says “I’ve really struggled with my mental health over the last few years. Just a few months before starting as a care assistant I was at my lowest point. I had to take time off school during my A-Levels and get professional support to help me cope.

“So, when I began meeting people in their 80s and 90s who had lived long and full lives, I wanted to learn from their wisdom and experience. I asked each of them what life advice would give to me, as a young woman, starting out in my studies and career.”

As a care assistant, Daisy supports people who need help to carry on living in their own homes, helping them with tasks like washing, dressing, cooking and eating. Having started the role in Spring 2020, all of Daisy’s experiences as a carer have been against the backdrop of the pandemic.  

She continues: “Being a care assistant during the pandemic hasn’t been easy.  There has always been that physical barrier – my facemask – between me and the people I care for. People I care for have died, too and that’s been hard to deal with sometimes.

 “Asking people for their advice has been a great way to connect with them and breakdown those barriers. Even though time for appointments can be tight, it’s enabled me to have some brief quality time and meaningful conversations with the people I care for.

“I still have to work on my mental health every day, but the things I’ve learned have helped me to manage my anxiety by thinking about the bigger picture and appreciate what I have.”

Older people’s tips for a happy life: Daisy Dalton shares the advice she’s received

  • Surround yourself with people who love and care about you? Just be yourself

“I was taking care of an elderly man who had been very high up in the Royal Navy. His perspective was that the only way people can love you is if they know you, and to know you they have to see the real you, so don’t put up a front.

“It stood out for me because, on social media, it can feel like there are a lot of people who aren’t being true to themselves. This advice helps me remember that there’s no point getting sucked into that: it won’t make me happy.”

  • Go out and chase your dreams – what’s the worst that can happen?

“I care for a woman in her 80s and her advice was that fear of making mistakes can paralyse you and prevent you from living the life you want to lead.

“She told me to let go of that fear and be a pioneer.  That way I’ll be less likely to have regrets when I’m older, even if things don’t work out as planned.”

  • Do things you might regret

“I’ve got a few tattoos and one of the other carers I was working with told me I’d regret them when I’m old.

“A lady I care for overheard us and shouted through “if that’s her biggest regret by the time she’s my age then she’ll be doing pretty well!” For me, it’s a reminder not to worry too much, focus on the big things in life, and not be afraid to have a bit of fun along the way.”

  • Appreciate what your body can do

“As someone with anxiety, I can spend a lot of time ‘in my head’ and caught up in my feelings.  Helping people to do everyday tasks, like eating or washing is a constant reminder of the challenges some of us live with day after day.

“Many of the older people I care for have told me to enjoy what I can do whilst I can do it. I love sports, particularly karate and horse riding - I’m studying for a sports degree – and so I try to remember that doing those things isn’t by any means a given, and that I can’t take my physical abilities for granted.”

  • If you want to be happier, help someone else

“This is something I’ve learned by being a carer. There are days when I’ve struggled with my anxiety, but I’ve gone to work and helped someone and it’s helped me feel better about myself.

“My job has given me a purpose and saved me on a mental health level. Some days, knowing that other people depend on me has been the only thing that’s kept me going.

“Doing something positive for someone else, however small or basic, can be massively beneficial for you and them. It puts life in perspective and helps you connect with people, which, during a pandemic is a really powerful thing.”

Earning and learning 

Alongside her work as a care assistant, Daisy is studying towards a degree in Sports and Exercise Science at UA92.  

Alongside academic qualifications, students also study character development skills including positive thinking, teamwork mental resilience and motivation. This approach is based on the Class of 92’s experiences under legendary Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson and is designed so that students graduate not only with the qualifications but the confidence and self-assurance to thrive in life.

She says: “I’ve been fortunate because UA92 has a set structure of lectures – you know that you’ll always be either a morning or afternoon student - so you have the other half of the day free to work or study.  They’re fully on board with students having jobs and other commitments outside of your course. You don’t have to pretend your degree is the only thing going on in your life.

“Everyone has a personal development coach, too, and mine has given me loads of tips on planning my time so I can handle my job and degree – I’ve become a pro organiser!”

UA92 was co-founded by Manchester United’s legendary Class of 92: Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, as well as Lancaster University.

Daisy's inspirational story was recently featured in Stylist. Read the full article.

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