Alzheimer’s sufferers find relief in ‘walking sports’

People affected by dementia have been training their muscles and minds through “walking sport” sessions across Southwark.

The Alzheimer’s Society has partnered with Ballers Academy, an organisation providing football coaching and mentoring to young people, to now offer sessions for people living with dementia and their carers.

The collaboration has seen more than 20 people from an Alzheimer’s Society support group in the capital benefit physically from sport, improve memory retention and reduce social isolation.

The waking sports include walking football, cricket and bowling.

Raj Parekh, 90, lives in Rotherhithe and began attending the sessions with his late wife who lived with dementia.

He said: “I started going with my wife three years ago as she lived with dementia before passing away. She felt so much better after attending as her confidence increased and memory improved.

“They were so useful for her, which showed after they stopped because of the pandemic and her deterioration intensified.

“Her focus improved drastically. She loved the activities and was determined to do well in them. I still attend as it is great for my physical and mental health, too.”

Clyde Sealey also participates in walking sports sessions with his wife, Margaret, 75. They met in 1970 while training as nurses and live in Peckham.

He added: “Margaret looks forward to going to the sessions and although she is now non-verbal, I can tell she gets excited for the walking sports as it allows her to socialise, interact and meet new people.

“I can tell because she holds her hands out as a sign of embracing people. Her body language shows she likes participating in the activities and the mental stimulation is important for Margaret.

“It is also valuable for me because I get to be around a support group of other carers who can relate to my situation. A problem shared is a problem halved. We are originally from the Caribbean and love cricket, so enjoy the walking cricket and bowling most.”

There are currently 79,000 people living with dementia in London, almost enough to fill Wembley Stadium, while 2,000 with the disease reside in Southwark.

Pictured top: Raj and his late wife, Mary, at a walking sports session (Picture: Alzheimer’s Society)

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