Supporting those living with dementia

To mark Dementia Awareness Week, we’re shining the spotlight on a project in Norfolk that uses sport and activity to help those living with the condition

18 May 2017

“Some people didn’t want to play at first. But they were soon all laughing, joking and clapping,” says Claire.

“One gentleman, who is usually very quiet and isolated, stood for the whole session and played continuously. His wife said that it was a long time since she’d had such a wonderful time.”

Claire is a coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Café and sees first-hand how dementia can turn lives upside-down.

But this is the positive impact sport and activity can have on people living with the condition.

The facts

More than three-quarters of a million people currently live with dementia in the UK and it’s expected that one in three of us will develop the condition at some point in our life.

A diagnosis can drastically interrupt the lives of those affected – and not just for the person living with dementia. Friends and family have to adapt to a new way of life, and it can be tough for everyone.

But that’s where sport and activity can make a real difference. We already know that leading an active lifestyle provides a real boost to physical and mental wellbeing. This applies to people living with dementia too.

The power of sport

Getting active can improve the quality of life for people in all stages of the condition – and Mobile Me from Active Norfolk is a programme we’re funding that supports people living with dementia.

The project brings physical activity to the communal areas of sheltered housing and residential care settings.

Run in partnership with care home provider, Norse Care, and other partner organisations, the initial 10-week programme improves wellbeing – and helps make physical activity a part of daily life for older people living in these places.

Some people didn’t want to play at first. But they were soon all laughing, joking and clapping

Claire, Alzheimer's Society Dementia Café coordinator

“The majority of activities offer an element of competition, can be easily adapted and for the most part are failure-free,” says project officer, Ryan.

There are a number of activities resident can take part in, including bowls, table tennis and New Age Kurling – a form of curling that has been adapted so that it can be played indoors on any smooth, flat surface.

Dementia Awareness Week

There is, however, a stigma that still surrounds dementia – which is why Dementia Awareness Week is aiming to open up the conversation around the condition and offer help and understanding to those affected.

More than half of the public who don’t have dementia think that, if they had the condition, they would feel that their life was over.

The majority of activities offer an element of competition, can be easily adapted and for the most part are failure-free

Ryan, Mobile Me project officer

Sport and activity can help change those perceptions – and make living with dementia easier.

“A resident, who doesn’t normally join in socially and can be negative in attitude and verbally abusive, took part in some bowling from her chair in the first week of the project,” says Mobile Me project leader, John*.

“Over the next few weeks, with a little support, she was getting herself out of the chair and ready to play with a smile on her face.”

Further information

*We've changed the name of this individual for privacy reasons