Become a Dementia Friend

Become a Dementia Friend

Community-Based Exercise Offers Support for Australians with Dementia

Earlier this month, Dementia Australia launched their Become a Dementia Friend online learning program to help support people with dementia to remain included, accepted and connected with their community.

In support of this movement, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) continues to educate Australians on the benefits of community-based exercise programs for not only brain health, but also to socially support those with dementia and other cognitive conditions.

"Social inclusion is a fundamental human right for all Australians. The importance of facilitating social opportunities for Australians with dementia and other cognitive conditions that also enhance and prolong quality of life needs to be discussed on a global level," explains Beth Sheehan, Accredited Exercise Physiologist.

"Facilitating these options through exercise is another key skill for allied health professionals, particularly for Accredited Exercise Physiologists. Group exercise settings allow for social participation and an increase in endorphins which in turn affect quality of life."

An estimated 425,000 Australians are living with dementia, with it impacting not only the individual with the condition but also their loved ones who often provide the support and care.

"Whilst there is no cure as yet for dementia, physical activity and exercise has been shown to improve memory and learning whilst also addressing co-morbidities associated with sedentary behaviour which is common amongst individuals with dementia," says Ms Sheehan.

"Individuals living with dementia or cognitive conditions often require repetition to assist with their cognitive declines. Community-based exercise or physical activity programs developed by an Accredited Exercise Physiologist will be evidence based and designed specifically for the individual with dementia which will also encourage safe and appropriate exercise behaviours."

These community-based programs can provide the vital link between people with dementia accessing exercise in a safe environment.

These programs can:
Increase levels of motivation and enjoyment
Improve physical function and independence
Minimise the growing incidence rates of chronic disease
Assist older adults to live longer and fuller lives
Provide access to additional aged care services
Offer safety and supervision when undertaking exercise
Offer social connectedness and interaction, encouraging the Dementia Friend movement.

Dementia Australia highlights that, "The essence of the Dementia Friend movement and a dementia-friendly community is to support people with dementia to be involved in activities and opportunities for social engagement that provide meaning and purpose in their lives for as long as possible. Social and community groups play a key role in facilitating this."

For advice on a suitable exercises for those with dementia, or to find a community-based exercise program in your area, you can contact your local Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) here.

"AEPs are able to design an individualised program within a group setting, which encourages social interaction, independence and addresses health and cognitive associated conditions whilst under supervision thus encouraging social and community inclusion," adds Ms Sheehan.

To become a Dementia Friend, or for more information on dementia, please visit the Dementia Australia website.