Tomorrow (13 May) marks the start of Dementia Awareness Week and Bristol City Council is encouraging people living with the disease to try a dementia-friendly swimming session.
The awareness week is an annual campaign organised by Alzheimer’s Society, who say that dementia is set to be the biggest killer of the twenty-first century*.
Bristol City Council is working with many different partners to make sure that life doesn’t stop when dementia begins,. Being able to lead an active life is a key part of this and the council has been supporting the Amateur Swimming Association’s (ASA) dementia friendly swimming initiative.
All Bristol Leisure Centres are now taking part, with staff specially trained by St Monica Trust on hand to support people with dementia and their carers, who swim for free. The centres also all have larger changing rooms, improved signage and carefully monitored temperature control to provide a safe and supportive environment for the swimming sessions.
Becky Pollard, Bristol’s Director of Public Health, said: “A diagnosis of dementia doesn’t mean that you have to stop doing the things you enjoy or trying new things, so we’ve been working to make sure people can still access the same opportunities in Bristol. The dementia friendly swimming session can be very beneficial, helping to improve both physical and mental health and offering a chance to socialise with others.
“Dementia mainly affects people over 65, but is not an inevitable part of ageing. Risk can be reduced by not smoking, avoiding harmful drinking, eating well and taking exercise.”
David is one of the people who have already taken part in the sessions. He said: “I learnt to swim in the river when I was 12 years old. I was brought up in the country and we just used to jump in. We didn’t think it was cold at the time but I remember it being really good fun! My father was always a keen swimmer and he used to go every week, swimming now reminds me of him – he died when I was young. I hadn’t been swimming for a long time until I got the opportunity with this project. I love being in the water. It feels like you’re floating and you feel so refreshed afterwards. I look forward to it every time.”
David’s carer, Leah, added: “You see such a change in people when they get in the pool, some have very stiff joints but they relax straight away and it brings back lots of memories. At first we didn’t think it would be possible but when we saw someone using the hoist and how accessible it was we gave it a go. From car to pool can be done without walking and the pool staff are excellent.”
As well as the swimming projects, the council is supporting Active Together, which matches volunteers to help people living with dementia based on shared interests. Pairs regularly go out together to take part in activities they both enjoy – from dancing and Pilates to visiting art galleries.
The first swimming session is free. To sign up or find out more visit: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/museums-parks-sports-culture/dementia-friendly-swimming
For more information about Active Together visit: https://www.voscur.org/volunteering/activetogether
If you, or someone you know, is worried about dementia, call the National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 or email email@example.com.