The Open University and The Parks Trust are working together on a joint project ‘The Walking Programme’.to investigate the barriers and facilitators to walking for people living with dementia and their carers.
We are trying to understand what works to keep people with dementia and their carers engaging with the walks and outdoor environments. Based on our previously published work (see also resources below), we know that sustained benefits come from regular engagement with activities, but this is challenging at many levels for people living with dementia and their families and carers. You can see more about the study on the project website.
A crucial area for this study has been the 5 Ways Dementia Friendly Café in Milton Keynes. Running since 2019, the Café has been a useful place to assess the impact of walking on those affected by dementia, due to the Café’s inclusion of a guided walk. The Parks Trust and OU are working together to analyse how attendees interact with the walk.
In this article we’re reflecting on the experiences of Andrew, one of the Café’s volunteers. It is thanks to the generosity of local volunteers like Andrew that the Café and its activities have been so successful.
To set the scene, the Café is held at and hosted by volunteers from St. Andrew’s Church. The Church is located in Great Linford Manor Park, which is managed by The Parks Trust. The park has its own volunteers, the Friends of Great Linford Manor Park (FoGLMP), who work closely with The Parks Trust at activities and events, act as ambassadors for the park and are helping to make the park more dementia friendly by helping at initiatives such as the Café. Parks Trust staff also help at the Café and work with the Open University to facilitate their research.
Andrew, a member of FoGLMP, first became involved with the Café for reasons close to his heart - his mother lived with dementia and his father cared for her:
[The Café] was interesting to me…partly because I could see that her carer (my dad) would have benefitted from something like this
As Andrew explains, the Café isn’t just for those with dementia, it’s for their loved ones and those who support them.
As a retired NHS consultant, Andrew has good experience working with the elderly and wanted to give something back to the community. He is also recently retired and finds himself time-rich. Andrew’s job at the Café is to welcome visitors, promote conversation and create a friendly atmosphere, which he does to great success. Andrew is “open-minded about other suggestions for things to do”, and so his accompanying interest in the heritage of the park immediately outside the church led him to begin leading guided walks from the Café, an idea that has now become a mainstay.
The walk is gentle and suited to all who wish to take part on the day. It encourages reminiscence for those familiar with the local area or promotes new learning in those who aren’t. It is this walking element that the OU have been researching. All those involved in the Café and the OU agree, in the words of Andrew, that “attendees get a change of scenery, meet new people, a chance to reminisce and also realise that there are others who value this and share their outlook.” Andrew adds that “the tea and biscuits help too!”. Andrew has observed that the walking also increases the confidence of those living with dementia as it naturally prompts opportunities for casual discussion around the scenery and historic features of the park.
As the attendees have become more familiar with Andrew and the park, some have begun attending practical volunteering sessions outdoors with the Friends group. This is a huge success and something we will be encouraging in the future.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic we had just agreed to expand the Café to operate twice per month, thanks to its success and retention of regular attendees. More sessions would enable more people to access it and will provide more respite opportunities for carers. We asked Andrew how he envisages the Café operating in a post-Covid world:
“With those living with dementia, we had some regular attenders but some who only attended once. It would be nice to get more regular attenders… I think there is a need and interest with scope for expansion if promoted correctly.”
The OU and Parks Trust research team are also hopeful that post-Covid, the Café can return to continue its valuable work. In the meantime, The Parks Trust and Open University have produced a free, self-guided resource, ‘The Spotter Sheet’, for use out and about in the park (also see our article and podcast here). It’s a great companion to a Lockdown walk. There is still more work to be done to tackle the stigma associated with dementia and to provide greater support those impacted by the disease; this is what makes our research with the OU so valuable. You can read more about our study here or listen to our introductory podcast .
OpenLearn related resources
More open resources
Vseteckova J & Broad E (2020) Keep Me Walking - researching with people living with dementia and their carers - Podcast – Open University in collaboration with The Parks Trust https://youtu.be/0QHAS88C-LU
Vseteckova J & King J (2020) COVID-19 Interview podcast for The Retirement Café: ‘Ageing Well Under Lockdown’ https://theretirementcafe.co.uk/077-dr-jitka/
Vseteckova J, (2020) SHORT FILM - Ageing Well in Self-Isolation https://youtu.be/LU4pXFgcGos
Vseteckova J, (2020) ANIMATION - Keeping healthy in Self-Isolation https://youtu.be/M9yUC-MUugA
Horne J, Vseteckova J, Kentzer N, Trott M, Smith L (2020) A systematic review on the barriers and facilitators to physical activity in informal/unpaid carers in the UK. PROSPERO International Prospective register of Systematic Reviews 2020 CRD42020167742 https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/display_record.php?ID=CRD42020167742
Horne J, Kentzer N, Trott M, Smith L, Vseteckova J (2020) A systematic review on the prevalence of physical activity in informal/unpaid carers in the UK. PROSPERO - International Prospective register of Systematic Reviews 2020 CRD42020162032 https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/display_record.php?ID=CRD42020162032
Vseteckova J, Horne J, Smith L, Trott M and Kentzer N (2020) Protocol: A systematic review on the prevalence of physical activity in informal / unpaid carers worldwide. Prospero - International Prospective register of Systematic Reviews https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/display_record.php?ID=CRD42020184204
Vseteckova J, Horne J, Smith L, Trott M and Kentzer N (2020) Protocol: A systematic review on the barriers and facilitators to physical activity in informal / unpaid carers worldwide. Registered with Prospero - International Prospective register of Systematic Reviews CRD42020184196 https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/PROSPERO/display_record.php?RecordID=184196
Vseteckova J, Dadova K, Gracia R, Ryan G, Borgstrom E, Abington J, Deepak - Gopinath M, Pappas Y (2020) Barriers and facilitators to adherence to walking group exercise in older people living with dementia in the community: a systematic review. Accepted by European Review of Aging and Physical Activity. ERAP-D-20-00011R2 https://eurapa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s11556-020-00246-6
Horne J, Kentzer N, Smith L, Trott M, Vseteckova J (2020) A systematic review on the prevalence of physical activity, and barriers and facilitators to physical activity, in informal carers in the UK. (Accepted by Journal of Physical Activity & Health JPAH.2020-0526.R1)
Horne J, Kentzer N, Smith L, Trott M, Abington J, Vseteckova J (2020) Participation in group outings, gender related profiling and preferences of outings for carers of individuals living with dementia: Systematic Review Protocol. Prospero - International Prospective Register of Systematic reviews CRD42020193532 https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/PROSPERO/display_record.php?RecordID=193532
Borgstrom E, Gopinath M and Vseteckova J (2018) Learning in the Fourth Age: the role of physical activity interventions for people living in long term facilities. (in press with International Journal of education and Ageing) http://oro.open.ac.uk/56664/
Vseteckova J, Deepak-Gopinat M, Borgstrom E, Holland C, Dadova, Ryan G, Gracia R (2018) Barriers and facilitators to adherence to walking group exercise in older people living with dementia in the community: a systematic review (Protocol) PROSPERO: International prospective register of systematic reviews.CRD42018114173 http://www.crd.york.ac.uk/PROSPERO/display_record.php?ID=CRD42018114173
Vseteckova J, Deepak-Gopinat M, Erica Borgstrom E, Holland C, Draper J, Pappas Y, McKeown E, Dadova K and Gray S (2018) Barriers and facilitators to adherence to group exercise in institutionalised older people living with dementia: a systematic review (in press) DOI : 10.1186/s11556-018-0200-3 https://eurapa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s11556-018-0200-3