Championing physical activity – reflections

This week we hand over to Dr Chris Russell to hear his reflections on working alongside practitioners offering physical activity to people affected by dementia. It’s particularly fitting as today just happens to be World Day for Physical Activity…

In mid-March the third run of the online course we’ve been offering to practitioners from a wide range of backgrounds, aiming to enhance their confidence and ability to offer physical activity to people affected by dementia, came to its conclusion. It is such a privilege to be working alongside colleagues who are so motivated and keen to do a good job. It is positive because we know physical activity can and should be part of everyday life for people living with dementia. Sadly it is often not, and this was a core motivation to develop and offer the course. We believe it can help close that gap.

Physical activity doesn’t have to be something which is highly organised, or in any way involve individuals wearing lycra! (Although, of course, if that’s what people want that’s absolutely fine). Physical activity is broadly defined as any movement that gets people’s heart rate moving in the right direction. So it can apply to a wide range of activities and pastimes, and for us that means we can link it to leisure and the sorts of interests people have, or things they may want to try. Following on from that, the course is designed to encourage participants to think about the people they work alongside and use what people bring as their motivation for taking part to offer them something really enjoyable, as well as being useful.

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Course options – what can you study?

Last week our blog told you that if you’ve studied with us on any of our courses you were eligible to be nominated for the Hennell Award, so this week we thought we’d tell you a bit more about the courses themselves! Using the list from last week:

Postgraduate Certificate in Person-Centred Dementia Studies

Hopefully it won’t be a surprise to any of you that we offer a fully online Postgraduate Certificate in Person-Centred Dementia Studies, as we’ve mentioned it just a few times in previous blogs! We’ve got a range of modules available covering different aspects of dementia, and different ways to study.

  • You can do the whole Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits)
  • You can do the Postgraduate Award, which is a double module (30 credits)
  • You can study an individual module that particularly takes your interest (15 credits). If you enjoy it, you can always go on to do other modules or complete the Certificate, so it’s a non-committal way to see how you get on.

Our new cohort of students has just started, but the next modules will begin in September. If it’s the sort of thing you’ve been considering, or maybe you’ve got a few questions to work out if it’s right for you, please have a look at our website and get in touch. You’re not committing to anything, so it won’t hurt to ask, and there’s no such thing as a silly question!

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Championing Physical Activity for People Affected by Dementia

This week we hand over to Dr Chris Russell who reflects on our online course ‘Championing Physical Activity for People Affected by Dementia’. Over to you Chris…

People affected by dementia (individuals living with dementia and also members of their family and close friends) want to continue doing things they have always enjoyed. Why would this not be the case? I know, because of research that we have completed here at the Association for Dementia Studies. This has explored activities that people can participate in perhaps for interest, for a sense of fun, or purpose, encapsulated by the term ‘leisure’. Such things contribute to making us who we are; they are part of everyday life.

Leisure includes activities as diverse as painting and listening to heavy metal music, with everything in between (and extending out on both sides!). It forms part of the jigsaw of everyday life. What one person enjoys might not be the preference of the next, but there should be something there for everyone. Taking part in physical activity is an aspect of this jigsaw, and physical activity is brimming with diversity too as it can include going for a walk, dancing, playing table tennis, going to the gym etc. It might not be every person’s first preference (although for many it is in one shape or form), but when one considers just how varied these activities can be, it is a feature of most of our lives.

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Championing physical activity

We’re proud that after a successful pilot earlier this year, our online course on ‘Championing physical activity for people affected by dementia’ will be running again later this year. We are grateful that the funding we received from the Leisure Studies Association and Active Herefordshire & Worcestershire enabled us to successfully develop and pilot the course earlier this year. For the next iteration we are charging a very reasonable rate to attend the course. With this in mind we thought we’d tell you a bit more about how the course was developed and piloted, and what difference it made to students. Thanks go to other members of the Association for Dementia Studies for sharing their slides from a recent presentation about the course at the University of Worcester’s Learning and Teaching Conference.

The course logo, showing a stylised figure with its arm outstretched, and the course title 'Championing physical activity for people affected by dementia'
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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.

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Rising to the challenge

This week it’s over to Dr Becky Oatley to tell us about what she’s been up to:

It is a freezing cold night in the middle of Winter. Indeed, I scraped the ice from my car before I hit the road. I’m wondering what has possessed either me or my companion to agree to this idea. As I reach my destination, the bright lights of the new leisure centre rear up out of the gloom. I am here to meet Jane and we are about to try a dementia friendly swimming session.

I first met Jane through the Association for Dementia Studies (ADS). She has done work with us for several years. Jane is living with an atypical dementia and was a member of the original LINK Group – a group of people with lived experience that supported ADS in their work. Jane has continued to work with us and has contributed to research and teaching across many projects and modules. She is a much-valued member of our team! Most recently, she has been helping edit a book about leisure, and contributed some key content about the value of physical activity to be used on the new PALDem course.

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Championing physical activity

The Association for Dementia Studies has successfully applied for funding from the Leisure Studies Association and Active Herefordshire and Worcestershire to develop and pilot an online course on ‘Championing the role of physical activity as a leisure choice for people affected by dementia’. Although the course won’t be delivered until next year, we wanted to tell people about it now as we’re already quite excited!

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Active Aging Week – sport, physical activity and living well with dementia

This blog was written by Becky Oatley who is currently undertaking a PhD focusing on dementia and sports reminiscence, memory and nostalgia, in particular engaging with the cultural dimensions of sport as a means of improving the lives of people living with dementia. Over to you Becky:

With the celebration of Active Aging Week upon us, now is an important time to talk about sport, physical activity and living well with dementia. However, in comparison to previous years, Active Aging Week likely looks a little different. Before events of 2020, the thriving University of Worcester Senior Physical Activity & Adapted Sport programme has had over 300 adults aged 60+ attending a wide variety of activities here at the University of Worcester. The unprecedented COVID-19 situation has put all that on hold and the long-term effects could be significant.

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Sport, physical activity and dementia

On Thursday 16th July nearly 150 people joined members of the Association for Dementia Studies team and the Senior Physical Activity & Adapted Sport (SPAAS) team for a webinar on ‘Sport, physical activity & dementia: Discussions for practice from the University of Worcester’.


The webinar was opened and chaired by Dr Yvonne Thomas from the University’s School of Allied Health and Community, welcoming everyone and setting the scene for the rest of the session.

The experiences of people with dementia engaging in sport and physical activity within their local community leisure and fitness centre

Up first was Dr Chris Russell who presented on his recent PhD. Following an initial literature review of existing evidence and a scoping survey, Chris’ research focused on four people with dementia who participated in activities within three community leisure and fitness centres, giving the opportunity to get an in-depth understanding of their experiences. Using a participatory approach meant that Chris found himself joining in a variety of different sporting activities during his study.

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Combining movement and enjoyment – Experiences of seated exercise at dementia cafés

As summer draws to a close Becky Oatley, one of our sport and dementia PhD students reflects on her experiences from the past few months. (Photos, names and quotes are used with permission from participants). Over to Becky…

This summer has provided a plethora of international sport to distract me from my PhD research. From the Lionesses capturing my heart at the women’s world cup, to the dramatic twists in the cricket, to a trip to Liverpool for the netball world cup, there have been some sporting moments I’ll remember for quite some time.

Closer to home, there are some sporting images that will stick in my mind too. The look of joy on Jean’s face as she caught the ball for the first time in Evesham, the energy buzzing from Hilary as she gushed about seated zumba and the pride Henry took in how quickly he rolled up his elastic band.

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