People with Dementia Engaging in Physical Activity within their Local Neighbourhood and Community

By: Chris Russell  

The purpose of this doctoral research is to explore the extent to which engagement with the activities of community-based leisure and fitness centres enables people living with dementia to maintain and develop their sense of identity. This is an important issue because globally the number of people with dementia is reaching levels where societies are unable to support them and their families to live well. However, maintenance of a strong sense of identity enables people to adjust to the change dementia brings. Engagement in purposeful activity, such as that offered by leisure and fitness centres, can sustain existing abilities and foster new ones. The research employed an ethnographic approach, utilising go-along interviews and participant observations with four people living with dementia, and their family carers. Participants engaged at their local leisure centre in diverse physical and social activities dependent on their aspirations, needs, and abilities. Findings from this scholarly work have implications for societies. For example, existing institutions and resources - such as community based leisure centres and sports clubs - are well placed to offer opportunities to meet the needs and aspirations for an active, and social life of people with dementia and their families. Indicative data suggests that engagement in the activities of leisure and fitness centres afforded participants opportunity to build and sustain their own social networks, founded upon notions of citizenship, and independent of formal support. The research offers potential to construct new agentic roles for people with dementia in the facilitation of activity and customer service.

Social Impacts, Social Support Networks, Citizenship, Family Relations, Wellbeing, Lifestyles
Social and Cultural Perspectives on Aging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Chris Russell

PhD Student , Association for Dementia Studies , University of Worcester (UK), United Kingdom
United Kingdom

I am a PhD Student at the University of Worcester in the United Kingdom exploring identity, dementia and sport/ physical activity. My first degree was in sociology and I have a longstanding interest in the relationship between individuals and society. Before my studentship I had worked for twenty years within social work. Thus, I am committed to considering how my research can be applied within neighbourhoods, communities and societies. I believe that social justice is very important.  This has stimulated an interest in citizenship. Within the context of my research this equates to exploring how people with dementia perceive their role in society, and how agency and empowerment might become a genuine reality. Sadly, at the moment, stigma and oppression (often well-meaning but misplaced) are the norms.