Benefits of developing a Dementia Friendly Swimming Programme

Creating a culture for change

Swim England realised it was crucial the Dementia Friendly Swimming (DFS) project was designed to be appealing and sensitive to the needs of people living with dementia. The setting should be easy to navigate and should be non-threatening, safe, welcoming and comfortable for its users.

The information should reach people living with dementia and their carers in a way that motivates them to take part. This means a four pronged approach that includes:

  • Appraisal of the facility to assess it’s suitability for people living with dementia.
  • Training for staff to improve their understanding of dementia and how to provide support.
  • Creating and supporting enjoyable and safe swimming and aqua-exercise experiences.
  • Delivering persuasive and motivating information describing the benefits of DFS to people living with dementia and their carers.

Benefits to many different groups were found including users, leisure service providers and partners.

Benefits to users

  • Physical wellbeing improved – including pain reduction, better balance, increase in functional capacity and fitness.
  • Psychological and social wellbeing improved – mental health, mood, confidence, anxiety and ability to concentrate.
  • Water confidence improved – swimming ability and physical activity levels.
  • For carers, the opportunity to socialise with other carers, share experiences and springboard to other social opportunities.

Benefits to leisure services

  • Staff become more aware of customers with different needs.
  • Changes in signage, route way markings and more careful consideration of social areas improves the environment for all customers.
  • Centres become aware of their importance as a social venue and as such have developed new policies to upgrade their catering and increase use of their social spaces.
  • Supports leisure services to fulfil their duties of community welfare.
  • It helps develop rewarding partnerships with other organisations and provides a better understanding of community needs.
  • Insight from DFS can be used to inform future commissioning priorities and carry learning into future projects.
  • Leisure services have raised their profile within public health and social care.

Benefits to partners

  • New, stronger partnerships, for example with local dementia service providers and charities.
  • Increased investment and resources.
  • Increased likelihood of physical activity interventions being commissioned by health bodies.
  • Raised profile and strategic importance of dementia locally.
  • A new element of implementation of local Dementia Strategy.
  • A new workforce of dementia friendly trained staff.
  • Reduces stigma and barriers associated with dementia in the local community.
  • Improved information sharing and collaborative working between organisations.


website: Skylab