Wright, Alan (2014) The experience of physical activity and well-being amongst older people from ethnically diverse backgrounds living with dementia. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This qualitative study investigates the impact of physical activity on the well-being of a group of older people with dementia from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The study is influenced by the theoretical perspectives of symbolic interactionism, social constructionism and embodiment. Participant observation and semi-structured interviews are used in eight well-being cafés and day centres in a northern city in the UK, where people with dementia living in the community perform different types of exercise and dance. Nineteen people with dementia and eight carers took part in the participant observation stage. Thirteen individuals with dementia from the participant observation phase are asked about their relationship with physical activity. Thematic analysis is used to generate themes and Van Manen’s hermeneutic phenomenological approach is used to guide interpretation.

Participants from all ethnic groups express positive beliefs and attitudes towards physical activity and some individuals overcome substantial barriers in order to be physically active. Participants experience a range of benefits including enjoyment, social contact and enhanced mood. Physical activity provides the context in which participants could employ their embodied ability to express themselves, communicate, locate themselves effectively in the social world and connect socially with others in a non-verbal manner. The well-being profile devised by Bradford Dementia Group (Bruce 2000) is applied to identify positive effects of physical activity. Engagement in physical activity is found to fulfil participant’s psychosocial needs and therefore positively affect well-being.

Barriers and facilitators which influenced participants’ engagement in physical activity are identified. Engaging in physical activity can be easily disrupted. Staff and volunteers are not always effective in facilitating physical activity and their efforts sometimes result in participants expressing ill-being. Some participants find it difficult to perform physical activity because their ethnic identities are incompatible with the cultural characteristics of available activities. A number recommendations relating to policy and practice are made to assist in the provision of physical activity that is likely to support the well-being of people with dementia.

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