Chester Le Street Leisure Centre in County Durham was one of the flagship leisure centres for Swim England’s Dementia Friendly Swimming Project, launching the programme in February 2015.
Since then weekly sessions have been developed at two pools in the county. They plan to roll out a further four pools by the end of 2016.
Durham County Council’s Aquatics Coordinator for North and Central, Laura Gwynne, caught up with one of the regular swimmers, Margaret Huggon, to find out why she swims and how she is finding the Dementia Friendly Swimming sessions. Laura shared her response:
Margaret Huggon has been attending Dementia Friendly Swimming sessions at Chester Le Street Leisure Centre in County Durham since October 2015. She said she has always enjoyed swimming and was pleased to get back into the water once again.
Margaret spent her childhood in Leeds, and her school was close to the River Aire and the canal. There were a considerable number of drownings in the area, so the school was very keen on teaching their pupils to swim. Margaret says that the school’s attitude was, ‘if every child learned to swim, it would be a hazard overcome’.
Margaret cannot remember a time when she was unable to swim and has always been a keen swimmer. Her husband’s job meant they moved around the country a lot, but regardless of where they lived, she has always made time to go down to her local pool.
“I really enjoy the sessions and I look forward to coming along each week for a swim. It’s a good all round exercise and is perfect because I feel weightless in the pool. I don’t even feel like I’m exercising, even though all my joints and muscles are active.” – Margaret Huggon
Margaret also told me that taking part in the weekly session is not just about getting into the pool and keeping active, there is a great social aspect to it too. There are a group of ladies who regularly spend time at the pool. Margaret found them really welcoming and happily joins in their ‘chit-chats’. Margaret is now 86 and hopes that she will still be swimming when she reaches her 90s.
Speaking with Margaret really highlighted the need for these sessions in County Durham, as well as the rest of the country. There are around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and they could all benefit so much from keeping active and socialising. It is a great pleasure to be one of the flagship areas for the Dementia Friendly Swimming project, which links in extremely well with all of our other work to create dementia friendly communities.