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This week, gym operator GLL revealed plans to make its 14,000 strong workforce ‘dementia aware’ and transform 350 of its facilities in a bid to make its services more accessible. Adjustments will also be made to its physical spaces by installing friendly signage to allow simpler navigation around the GLL buildings.

Staff across the network of leisure centres will receive training through a series of conferences – in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society – resulting in GLL staff becoming ‘Dementia Friends’.

Dementia Friends is an initiative run by the Alzheimer’s Society and is designed to inform people about dementia and empower them to ‘turn their understanding into action’.

The LiveWire club in Warrington will also be enhancing its dementia care in 2019. Following the opening of the Great Sankey Neighbourhood Hub, LiveWire will be launching a programme of activities to support people in Warrington living with dementia. LiveWire promises to offer a supportive environment where people affected by dementia can feel comfortable to come and be active.

LiveWire has partnered with the Dementia Champions Steering Group in Warrington to develop a tailored programme. The Happy & Healthy class will include 30-40 minutes of low-impact exercise followed by a period of relaxation and breathing exercises, including chair exercise, t’ai chi, low- to moderate-intensity cardio exercise, and balance and stretching.

Catriona Sudlow, physical activity and inclusion manager for LiveWire, said, “Following a diagnosis, many people living with dementia stop doing the activities they love. LiveWire wants to provide an environment whereby people feel comfortable to continue being active with the confidence that staff are on hand to support them when needed.”

Instructors will undergo training to enable them to deliver sensitive advice and guidance to people living with dementia, and there will also be dementia-friendly swimming opportunities. LiveWire hopes the centre will become the first public building in England to achieve the University of Stirling’s Gold Accreditation Certificate for Dementia Design.

Lifestyle advisor at LiveWire, Adam Hazlewood, who will be one of the instructors delivering the Healthy & Happy class, told Fitpro, “Remaining independent is so important to people living with dementia. Our exercise sessions support people to improve their muscle strength, flexibility, and therefore their ability to perform daily activities such as cooking, cleaning and getting dressed. It also provides an opportunity to socialise to help reduce feelings of isolation. I am looking forward to delivering these sessions in our new dementia-friendly building because I feel that this is an often overlooked group.”

Research projects

Dr Laura Phipps from Alzheimer’s Research UK told Fitpro, “Regular physical exercise can be beneficial for many health conditions, and research is looking to see whether it has a direct effect on reducing the risk of dementia. Being active needn’t mean running marathons; finding an activity you enjoy and are more likely to stick with is more beneficial.

“While it’s still unclear what type of exercise is best, and at what stage of life, keeping active throughout life is important. Taking part in physical exercise is also a good opportunity to stay socially active, which can also have a positive impact on brain health.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK is funding research at the University of East Anglia to see whether an interactive web intervention with face-to-face group sessions could support people at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and memory problems to exercise regularly.”

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