Eirinn Mowat: Walking as a social activity for individuals living with dementia

Eirinn Mowat is a fourth year medical student at The University of Edinburgh who carried out a research project with Paths for All to find out about the social experiences of Dementia Friendly Walking groups for individuals living with the condition.

Dementia Friendly Walking East Ayrshire

I chose this specific area because of the high and increasing prevalence of dementia, and the issues of social isolation and loneliness in this group of the population. I conducted focus groups with the project coordinators and Walk Leaders of four of the Paths for All Dementia Friendly Walking groups, and carried out one individual interview.

The conversation was based around the “social connectedness” framework including the concepts of social integration, social identification and social support applied to observations of the walking groups.

This project was a very positive experience through which I learned of the breadth of social opportunities that become available for individuals with dementia by being part of a Paths for All walking group, not just during the walks themselves but also out with.

The value of these social interactions should be emphasised, with potential to improve sense of purpose, confidence and self-image. The groups achieve this through being friendly, inclusive and non-judgemental.

Coming away from this project, I feel that Dementia Friendly Health Walks could be utilised more as part of holistic therapy where consideration is given to the person as a whole, not just the condition they have, and the importance of social health is not overshadowed as it may be otherwise.

It would be great if uptake of these walks by individuals living with dementia increased.