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Residential Care Home Project Promotes Benefits of Yoga to those with Dementia

It is well documented that staying active in later life helps us both physically and mentally, allowing us to continue doing the things we love for longer.

So it seems obvious that introducing physical activity into the routine of those living in residential care homes will be beneficial to both them and those around them.

Many care homes already carry out regular sessions of light, gentle exercise where appropriate, and anecdotal evidence suggests that they see improvements in residents? mental as well as physical well-being.

However, the limitations of many elderly people?s physical capabilities mean certain exercises can be unsuitable or even dangerous. So it is important to not only understand the benefits of exercise but to also know which exercises are suitable for a range of people.

One form of exercise which could be suitable for most people – including the elderly and physically challenged – is yoga. Yoga can be practiced on many different levels, and in its basic form consists of simple breathing and meditation techniques, combined with the adoption of specific body postures of varying degrees of difficulty.

elderly exercise

Yoga Project

A new project has recently seen yoga sessions introduced into care homes in Britain, with resounding success. The 18-month project was carried out by Tania Plahay, a yoga instructor, and was funded by the Foundation for Nursing Studies with the backing of independent care services body Care England.

During the project, Ms Plahay taught basic movement and relaxation techniques to groups of residents in a care home. The yoga instructor had been prompted to offer the service following her experiences as a volunteer at residential care homes and after her disappointment at the lack of social and physical activity in certain residential settings she had visited while looking after her relatives.

Positive Results

Although no scientific study was made of the results of the yoga project, both the residents and the staff involved reported positive effects.

One of the home?s activities co-ordinators said that residents who had taken part were more relaxed and less agitated following the sessions, while another reported increased levels of engagement and improvements in cognitive and memory skills in those with dementia.

It is this positive impact on people with dementia which has been attracting most interest, adding as it does to a growing body of evidence which points to the fact physical activity can benefit cognition as well as physical well-being.

Being able to reduce the levels of anxiety and agitation often experienced by those with dementia would be high on most medical professionals’ wish lists.

The director of research at the Alzheimer?s Society, Dr Doug Brown, welcomed the project, saying although there was little research into the specific benefits of yoga to those with dementia, it was certainly an area worth exploring.

The chief executive of Care England, Martin Green, agreed, saying there is a real need to ensure people in care homes do not live sedentary lives.

It seems more research is needed, but the positive effects of yoga for those with dementia – as well as those without – are just beginning to be realised.

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