The ‘Our Tackling Dementia’ group run by the Worcester Warriors rugby club can only be described as ‘one big, happy, adult youth club'.
Our group supports people affected by dementia by helping them to take part in physical activity. It provides an inclusive community where they can meet people and get out of the house.
As part of my role as the Worcester Warrior's BME and disability lead, my boss gave me the go-ahead to form a Dementia Café in 2017, at first it had only five members and three volunteers. It was small but perfectly formed!
Through word of mouth the Café grew, and now there are approximately 45 people and a wider array of activities for people to do.
The regulars join the weekly fun with their carers for a chance to pick up the ball and play rugby, tennis, or simply enjoy the company and relax. There is no pressure and that’s the way they like it.
Some people are unenthusiastic about joining the group saying, ‘this isn’t for me’. I remember one person had no spark and didn’t want to ‘hang out’ with much older people. But after accepting a position as a volunteer, he found his place in the group. He now acts as a concierge, greeting people and making sure that everyone is happy and having fun.
That’s why we formed this club, as a safe place where people who are living with dementia can find their own way.
Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t
People who were initially reluctant to join are sitting down and chatting or joining in
Our Dementia Café has plenty of positive stories from people who have lost their fear of going out and engaging with people every week. Now there is banter, with people who were initially reluctant to sign up are sitting down and chatting or joining in.
We want to encourage those people who are living with dementia to harness what they can do, and focus on that, instead of being held back by the things they can’t do anymore.
Our members want to be normalised and to find their own way instead of being wrapped up in cotton wool. Therefore, sometimes we must take calculated, small risks to allow this to happen.
Encouraging people to step outside their comfort zone
We encouraged one of our members, 93-year-old Neville to show off his dive passing skills when playing rugby. He shows so much boyish enthusiasm to the game it bought a tear to everyone’s eye that day.
Another member of ours, is an ex-county tennis player who is living with dementia, to play with a giant racket and a balloon. No matter the size of the racket, she wins every week.
Andrew is another perfect example of how people flourish when they are encouraged to see what they can do at our Dementia Café.
Andrew had never played rugby before, but he joined in a mixed ability rugby session. He grabbed the ball, ran the length of the pitch and scored a try. It didn’t matter that they were just playing in a little box in the middle of the pitch. What mattered was that he loved the thrill of scoring a try and the warmth he got from the rugby family.
The dementia-friendly sports guide
The Worcester Warriors helped to launch the Dementia-friendly sport and physical activity guide. Through our Dementia Café, we have seen the benefit that sports and exercise can have on people who are affected by dementia.
We hope this guide will be a force for good because it will include everyone in local sports and physical activity facilities.
How to be more physically active
If you or a loved one has dementia, physical activity can improve your quality of life. Find out how to stay active at any stage of dementia.