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Sports Minister supports roll-out dementia friendly swimming project

The Amateur Swimming Association | Swim England

4 min read Partner content

An award-winning project that encourages people living with dementia to continue to enjoy the benefits of swimming is to be rolled-out to six additional areas in England.

The expansion of the project will be marked by a special event today at Clissold Leisure Centre, Hackney, with Tracey Crouch MP and representatives from the ASA (Amateur Swimming Association), partner agencies, local authorities and the Alzheimer’s Society in attendance.

Launched in February 2015, the Dementia Friendly Swimming Project has been successfully piloted at leisure centres in Durham and Manchester, and been recognised at the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Awards 2015 and the Spirit of Manchester Awards.

The ASA, along with local partners in Bristol, Nottingham, Crawley, Barking and Dagenham and the London boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets, will now be working together to create a network of swimming pools that are safe and welcoming for people living with dementia.

Adam Paker, Chief Executive of the ASA, said: “With an ageing population and the numbers of people diagnosed with dementia set to rise, the Dementia Friendly Swimming Project is an incredibly important initiative.

“Swimming helps to reduce anxiety by clearing the mind and relaxing the body. It also offers important opportunities for people to socialise, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.  

“Our work in County Durham and Manchester has already shown the positive impact that swimming has on a person living with dementia, and their carers, which is why we are delighted to be to be expanding the Project to six more areas.

“Over the next two years we want to create a network of over 100 dementia-friendly pools that are safe and welcoming for all, ensuring that no one living with dementia misses out on being able to enjoy swimming and the many health and social benefits that it offers.”

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch is an avid supporter of schemes that improve the lives of people living with dementia. She said: “Staying healthy and active is incredibly important at every stage of life. 

“For people living with dementia, low impact exercise such as swimming can be beneficial for both their physical and mental health. Organised activities can also help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. 

“The Dementia Friendly Swimming Project is a great example of an initiative which does all of these things and more. No-one, including those with dementia, should feel they cannot participate in physical activity.”

Dementia is one of the key health challenges facing society today, with around 670,000 people in England living with dementia, and an estimated 550,000 carers1.

Research shows that low impact exercise can help to improve the quality of life for people in all stages of dementia, and that swimming in particular has the added benefits of helping to reduce anxiety, improve a person’s mood and offers an overall sense of physical and mental well-being2.

The Dementia Friendly Swimming Project is a three year project supported by the Department of Health’s Innovation, Excellence and Strategic Development Fund that aims to create a network of over 100 dementia friendly swimming pools.

Over the next two years the ASA will continue to work with local authorities, public health professionals, carers and community groups to ensure the needs of those living with dementia and their carers are fully understood.

This will include providing guidance and training for facility operators, and helping to create the right environment in which to deliver a range of low intensity exercise and swimming sessions.

Councillor Jonathan McShane, lead Member of Health, Social Care and Culture, London Borough of Hackney, said: “We are delighted to be introducing dementia friendly swimming in Hackney.

“It is an excellent initiative for people in Hackney that will see individuals presented with a new way to boost mental wellbeing, while fulfilling an activity that can bring with it a real sense of achievement. 

“Dementia is one of the biggest health and social care challenges facing society today and it is vital that we continue to look at new ways to improve the lives of people with the condition. I look forward to working with local partners and groups in ensuring the programme’s success.”

Roger Burrell attends a Dementia Friendly Swimming Session with his wife Gillian, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2014. He said: “Gillian always loved swimming but with the onset of dementia she struggled to stay in the lanes and would forget to turn at the end of the pool, which was really frustrating for her, so we were keen to try the sessions.

“The best thing was knowing that everyone there, from the staff to other swimmers, were aware that there were people with dementia in the pool. Staff were attentive and had thought about the support that was needed not just in the pool, but in the changing rooms too.

“There’s a definite need for sessions like these nationwide so that people living with dementia can still enjoy swimming with a sense of independence. Help was at hand but it wasn’t patronising, which was really important.”

To find out more about the project, including how to become a partner, people can visit www.swimming.org/DementiaFriendly.

Read the most recent article written by The Amateur Swimming Association - Swimming is the nation’s favourite sport

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