From PhDs to Practice

This week we hear from Dr Chris Russell with news about a novel course supporting opportunities for leisure and physical activity for people living with dementia. Over to Chris…

Eighteen months ago I completed my PhD which investigated the experiences of people living with dementia as they took part in physical activity, close to home, in their local leisure centre.

It was a labour of love. The cliché, that you should always study a subject which you feel passionate about when completing a PhD, was true for me. I love spending time with people living with dementia and their family members, I also have a lifelong passion for sport and physical activity.

Some of the findings and detail about how I went about the research have been published in a journal article, and there is another one in its final stages. More will be included in a chapter of a book about dementia and leisure which will be published next year.

However, when the research concluded I didn’t want to leave it there! So since then I have been working with colleagues here at the University of Worcester – Dr Becky Oatley, Nicola Jacobson-Wright, Jen Bray, Tom Howard and Nathan Stephens, to employ some of that learning (and much more) in a new course that we’ve developed together, which focuses on championing the role of physical activity as a leisure choice for people affected by dementia.

The course is delivered online and is for professionals working in care and health settings, and sports and physical activity contexts such as leisure and fitness centres and sports clubs. Its aim is to enable people to feel more confident about offering physical activity for people living with dementia and family carers. The Leisure Studies Association and Active Herefordshire and Worcestershire generously supported the development of the course with funding.

Becky recently finished her PhD too. It addressed similar subjects. We were buddies throughout our PhD studies, and we took that into this new project. The research that Becky and I carried out has informed the content, but we also drew on knowledge from wider sources. This included the contribution and support of the colleagues I mentioned earlier, whose backgrounds and experience range from dementia practice development coaching, to dance movement and creative therapy, along with physical activity training, and expertise in research methods. This has been invaluable in ensuring the aims of the course are met.

We took great care in developing the course, and from the outset consulted with people living with dementia and family carers about its content. In fact we already had an excellent foundation in this regard because both PhD studies had done exactly the same, consulting on content and approach with people living with dementia and family carers.

It is fair to say that time flew by. Soon the moment came to welcome our students, and what a fantastic group of people they turned out to be! We were able to gather what I described earlier, a group drawn from a range of care, leisure, sports and physical activity backgrounds. Recently we completed the teaching on the course and the students reflected how they valued hearing about the experiences in practice of others and comparing it with their own. Everyone enjoyed their learning too, which is very important of course!

The best thing about all of this is that through the new learning provided, people living with dementia and their family carers will be offered more opportunity to engage in the leisure opportunities and physical activity which they enjoy.

Soon we will fully evaluate the feedback on the course from the students, then we will write up and publish our findings. The aim is to further improve what we offer and run the course again in the autumn. If you are interested in hearing more, or might like to enrol on the course please get in touch

Connect with ADS on twitter @DementiaStudies and on Facebook @adsuow

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