Meet Alice, an 88-year old living with dementia

Alice learned to swim at a young age and enjoyed swimming in her spare time until she was a teenager. She now lives in a residential care home following the onset of dementia.

Alice has difficulty with her speech, experiences severe pain in one of her legs and has difficulty walking. She is able to use a rollator frame to get around her bedroom and bathroom, but any further than this and she is reliant on other people taking her in a wheelchair.

Since her diagnosis with dementia, Alice had avoided swimming until her activities co-ordinator encouraged her to take part in the Dementia Friendly Swimming (DFS) sessions.

Alice attends the DFS sessions once a week with the Activities Co-ordinator and other residents of the care home.

The 88-year-old reported numerous benefits from attending the sessions. She considers herself to be more active, her water confidence has grown, and she feels a lot better since she started going to the pool again.

Alice enjoys getting out of the care home, socialising with other participants and likes being in the water.

She says being in the pool offers her a unique form of pain relief and that the support offered by the water enables her to walk further than she can on land.

Walking in the water helps

Alice said: “I have difficulty walking, I have trouble with my right leg, and sometimes I have a pain down the side. Walking in the water helps [with the pain], I don’t swim in there, I just walk with help.

“It makes the pain in my leg easier. I wouldn’t say it lasts forever, but it does last a while after having been in the [water]. My son seems to think the day after that I’m walking better with the zimmer.”

Alice likes to use the sessions to challenge herself. She walks widths of the pool, aided by the Activities Coordinator, an instructor or volunteer.

If there wasn’t a group, she wouldn’t go swimming, as she feels she wouldn’t be able to cope. Alice finds the leisure centre a positive place to be and feels that the facilities make the experience better.

Alice is a strong advocate of the Dementia Friendly Swimming sessions and is always trying to encourage other residents of her care home to attend. She has her sights on encouraging one particular resident. Alice said: “I told him about it, because sometimes he says to me that his doctors said that he would lose his walking. He would have to have two sticks or a chair like this, and I said it would help him. I told him even if he didn’t have a pair of trunks we would find him a pair.”


website: Skylab