£60k boost for dementia sufferers in Scotland to embrace the great outdoors

People with dementia in various parts of Scotland are to benefit from a cash injection of £60k to help them enjoy walking activities, which could help improve their sleep patterns and boost overall health and mental wellbeing.

Residents of Perth and Kinross and Ayrshire will benefit from the two-year National Lottery Community Fund‘s Improving Lives Fund secured by national walking charity Paths for All.

Paths for All says staying active is important to lower your risk of dementia and can help anyone living with the condition to improve their overall health.

It claims everyday walking can help to improve muscle tone and bone strength, increase cardio-vascular health, manage weight and blood pressure levels – and that walking can enable more oxygen to the brain which helps with reasoning, problem solving, spatial mapping and mood.

Paths for All is working with 10 care homes in Perth and Kinross to develop a ‘Care About Walking’ project to support care home staff to create a walking culture and embed walking activities into residents’ daily routines.

Sheila Baxter, Activities Coordinator with Beech Manor care home in Blairgowrie, said: “Families are very happy that their loved one is being encouraged to walk. Staff have enjoyed spending time with residents walking more and they are getting fit too.

“It’s been a positive influence on staff having posters around the home and making us all aware of the importance and benefits of becoming fitter.”

In Ayrshire, The National Lottery Community Fund – Improving Lives Fund, will support Paths for All to work with people living with dementia and unpaid carers to become more active, access the outdoors and improve their social connections to prevent isolation.

Paths for All’s Chief Officer, Ian Findlay CBE, said: “This funding is a welcome boost to our Dementia Friendly Walking project. It will help us to make practical changes at a local level in Perth and Kinross and Ayrshire. We will share the results at a National level to encourage more elderly adults to benefit from everyday walking.”

“We want to reduce the barriers for people living with dementia and their carers to enjoy time outdoors. Often adaptions to the outdoor environment are needed to make physical activity easier for older adults.

“A well designed and inclusive walking environment requires level paths with no changes throughout, more handrails, better drainage to reduce puddles and service covers to be the same colour as the path surface.

“Working with Dementia Friendly Prestwick to create Scotland’s first Dementia Friendly Promenade will promote the benefits of improving the walking environment for everyone.”

“Working with care homes has identified the need for staff support, resources and training to make changes to both the indoor and outdoor environment to encourage residents to walk as much as they can, for example from their room to the garden.”

“Taking a person-centred approach to involving care home residents in Perth and Kinross to walk more is important. For example, residents in one home are painting plant pots to make a walking trail around their garden.”

The Dementia Friendly Walking Project is supported by The Life Changes Trust, The National Lottery Community Fund, William Grant Foundation, The Robertson Trust, Spirit of 2012, sportscotland and the Scottish Government.

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Lynda Hamilton Parker is a Scottish PR expert and independent publisher

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