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Could you lead a dementia-friendly exercise class and bring joy to your own and others’ lives?





Many classes are being put on in the area to help people's wellbeing and bring them together.

Weekly in Fenland towns, rooms fill with people who are all in the same very difficult boat and they laugh, sing, do some light exercise, and find understanding and friendship.

They come together for ‘Love to Move’ seated exercise classes for people with dementia and their carers, which are now available at several locations in the district, with ambitions to increase.

Love to Move leader Julia Mallett
Love to Move leader Julia Mallett

Julia Mallett, 61, of Walpole Highway, is a volunteer class deliverer.

She said: “This is the best thing I have ever done. I wish I had found it years ago.

“When in life do you get to do something you really enjoy and everybody is telling you ‘thank you’?

Love to Move class at Damsons group at Peckover House
Love to Move class at Damsons group at Peckover House

“I would recommend to anybody to do the training and get a group going because it is fantastic.”

Julia was volunteering with the Damsons group for people with dementia and their carers run by the National Trust at Peckover House in Wisbech when they had a ‘Love to Move’ taster session.

She was instinctively drawn to ‘Love to Move’ and put herself forward to train as a deliverer.

Carer Tony Ardener takes his wife along to ‘Love to Move’ sessions at Damsons
Carer Tony Ardener takes his wife along to ‘Love to Move’ sessions at Damsons

Julia feels a kinship with people whose lives are touched by dementia.

She lost her husband John in 2015 when he was just 53, having cared for him for four years following a brain tumour and subsequent surgery that left him disabled.

Julia added: “I think it gave me an empathy for people in this situation, which no one thinks is going to happen to them.

“We were expecting this long retirement together, but this happened to us when we were so young.”

Julia joined Damsons in 2022.

After losing John, she left the job at Tesco she did for 23 years and took a full-time role at Hutchinsons in Wisbech, but ultimately pursued early retirement.

She said: “When something like that happens to you, it puts a different perspective on your life. I wanted a different work/life balance.”

‘Love to Move’ is a British Gymnastics Foundation programme designed to improve cognitive function, health, and well-being in a fun and social environment.

Fenland District Council's Active Fenland supported Julia’s ‘Love to Move’ training and the specialist training of several other deliverers to bring the programme to the district.

‘Love to Move’ is also available in Chatteris and March.

Julia delivers sessions weekly at Damsons.

Active Fenland is keen to collaborate with more individuals and organisations with staff or volunteers interested in training to bring ‘Love to Move’ sessions to more people across Fenland.

‘Love to Move’ session leaders can work towards a deliverer qualification and licence.

The classes are one of a range of Active Fenland sessions for people who might face additional barriers to accessing exercise, funded by Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Integrated Care System (ICS).

Tony Ardener, 73, goes along to Damsons with wife Sylvia, 76. He was originally told about Damsons by a social prescriber – a professional who connects people with activities that may support their well-being, though anyone can go to Damsons without a referral.

He said: “I was apprehensive at first, not knowing what to expect but it has become like a special family.

“It helps us so much and makes our lives better. It’s a lifesaver really. I look forward to Wednesdays.”

‘Love to Move’ is popular with him.

He added: “It helps me too because I suffer with a bit of arthritis. The ‘Love to Move’ keeps my joints going. The worst thing you can do is sit in a chair and do nothing.

“My wife loves the singing and music.”

Cllr Alex Miscandlon, Fenland District Council portfolio holder for leisure, said: “Love to Move is just one example of the fabulous work Active Fenland does to bring health and wellbeing opportunities to the district.

“I’d encourage everyone to take a look at the programme and see what’s available.

“And, of course, we’d love to hear from any organisations or individuals that could help increase the number of Love to Move sessions for people with dementia and their carers by receiving session leader training.”

To find out about training free to be a ‘Love to Move’ session leader, contact: activefenlandbookings@fenland.gov.uk or call Heidi Lemmon on 07592 774656.

‘Love to Move’ sessions take place:

- Thursdays, 11am to 12.30pm at King Edward Community Centre in Chatteris. No need to book just turn up – or for more information contact activefenlandbookings@fenland.gov.uk

- Tuesdays, 11am to 12.30p at March Braza Club. No need to book just turn up – or for more information contact activefenlandbookings@fenland.gov.uk

- As part of Damsons sessions, Wednesday, 1pm to 3pm at Peckover House in Wisbech – which is now quite a busy and full session

Damsons offers social, craft, and fun activities around the ‘Love to Move’ session.

Damsons also meet 1pm to 3pm on Tuesdays and 10am to noon on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. ‘Love to Move’ is not currently offered at these sessions.

For information about joining Damsons, contact 01945 583463 or email peckover@nationaltrust.org.uk

Active Fenland secures grant funding to provide a wide range of free and low-cost activity, health, and wellbeing sessions to the people of Fenland.

Discover other Active Fenland exercise and wellbeing sessions for all at: www.fenland.gov.uk/activefenland



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