How Physical Activity can Support People Living with Dementia
Posted: Mon, 21 May 2018 15:59 by Mr Gareth Samuel
Written By Ryan Hughes (left)
Over the past 3 years I have had the pleasure of working with Norfolk's older population, helping to promote physical activity as a tool to support with managing age associated decline in health and wellbeing, particularly via our Mobile Me project. This role has allowed me to meet some wonderful people, but with 94% of those accessing Mobile Me experiencing a long term health condition and/or disability, I think it is fair to say that they have had their challenges in recent years.
None more so than our attendees who are living with Dementia, which due to its increasing prominence has become much more a part of the public consciousness in recent years. Monday May 21st sees the start of Dementia Action Awareness Week, and with Dementia UK stating that 835,000 people are affected by Dementia in the UK today, it will surely be a week that is of great importance for anyone effected.
One area that I personally hope will be promoted throughout the week, is the role physical activity and sport has to play, with there being a growing evidence base highlighting how it can support in the prevention and management of health and wellbeing, including Dementia. I believe this has been evident within Mobile Me, and maybe most poignantly in the work we have done with Norsecare, in their Dementia specialist Mayflower Court care home. Within these sessions, residents played Boccia, which quickly became very popular, and allowed me to witness first-hand the power sport can have as a therapeutic tool; we saw high levels of social interaction between peers and feelings of joy evoked, for example when achieving a high score. Being a part of these sessions, and seeing the impact they have had first hand has been very emotive and a privilege to be a part of.
I have also found it very rewarding to see how the activity sessions have aided the wider support network for the person living with Dementia, with next of kin often joining in sessions. It has been regularly commented on how being active together allows for a different type of interaction to what has recently been experienced; as well as providing an opportunity to be able to do something together, which unfortunately has become increasingly challenging to do. This was a very welcome additional outcome found by the Mobile Me project, which has lead us to begin working with Carers Matter Norfolk to establish physical activity opportunities for family and friend carers.
Having seen the impact physical activity can have on people living within a difficult period of their life, it has made me increasingly aware of the breadth of influence this can have. I believe this message to be of significant importance, because in a world where people are living longer due to medical advancements, physical activity has its part to play in enabling as high a quality of life as possible.