Sessions for individuals with dementia are helping attendees and their carers feel a sense of companionship

A leisure centre in Midhurst is improving the physical and mental wellbeing of those living with dementia through its weekly free Active Minds sessions.
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Run in collaboration with mental health charity Mind, The Grange Community and Leisure Centre, managed by Everyone Active in partnership with Chichester District Council, has been hosting the sessions since 2016.

The programme helps those with early stages of dementia, whilst offering a short break for loved ones who are carers.

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Active Minds provide the ideal opportunity for those with early-stage dementia to partake in engaging activities with likeminded individuals. Sessions begin with a group discussion, with attendees being asked whether they can recall the day of the week, the month, the year and the season, along with general conversation.


Session activities include table tennis, music, singing, dancing, gardening, bingo, chair aerobics, arts and crafts, tenpin bowling, indoor bowls, outdoor walks, cognitive paper-based activities and much more.

The sessions currently help nine attendees every week to leave a more fulfilling life and there is still space for additional attendees.

Gloria Cobb, 81, has been attending the sessions for over six months. Her daughter, Nikki, who cares for her said: “Active Minds helps my mum not only physically but emotionally - whilst she has a particular strain of dementia whereby she is in denial and is therefore not hugely affected emotionally by her diagnosis, the sessions give her a sense of companionship through spending time with others with dementia.

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“Her main motivation to go to the sessions is the people – she struggles to remember family member’s names, but she always remembers the name of her friend at the session and is excited every week to see them!

“We’re very happy and fulfilled from these sessions, they’re really good.”

Active Minds is led by Elizabeth Ralph, who dedicates her time to individuals with dementia across Sussex through her role at Mind. She said: “It’s important to me that members of the sessions are partaking in activities they want to be a part of which is why I plan my programme around the attendee’s suggestions.”

“I’m currently training to become a counsellor and I’ve found that my evolving counselling skills has really benefitted attendees - I’m able to support them physically and mentally, but also emotionally by talking about emotions and feelings as they work their way through this difficult disease.

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“As part of this I put together an Anger workshop where attendees could talk about their frustrations as I helped them come up with strategies of dealing with these emotions and issues on a daily basis.

“I'm very passionate about supporting the members and their carers, and I feel very fortunate to be able to help people through a job I love.”

Stuart Mills, contract manager at Everyone Active said: “We’re thrilled to be collaborating with an incredible charity like Mind to deliver such impactful sessions to individuals with dementia and their loves ones.

“Elizabeth does an excellent job and ensures attendees not only have a good time but leave feeling valued thanks to the sense of togetherness the sessions create. We hope to continue as many individuals with early onset dementia as we can within the Chichester community.”

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Councillor Jess Brown-Fuller, Cabinet Member for Culture and Events at Chichester District Council, said: “This is an amazing initiative which is obviously having a really positive effect on those that attend, and also their families and loved ones. We’re really pleased that Everyone Active is offering these sessions at The Grange Centre – it’s really important to meet as many people’s needs as possible and I hope that the sessions continue to go from strength to strength.”

Sessions take place on Tuesdays from 10am-12pm and are free of charge, with donations welcome from carers should they wish to support the programme. For more information or to book a session, please contact Elizabeth at [email protected]