LSA funded research update: Investigating dementia, identity, and sport/ physical activity

By Christopher Russell
University of Worcester

During May 2018 I travelled to Switzerland to meet with a variety of colleagues and organisations relevant to my research – which explores the potential significance of identity for people affected by dementia, who engage with activities of leisure centres.

Following a successful application the visit was funded, to a great extent, by the Leisure Studies Association Research and Enterprise Development Fund. The trip provided unique opportunities to discuss my research, and its potential application and dissemination, with interested parties from Switzerland and across the world. Reflection upon the visit will also help inform my progress as the PhD continues.

I chose Switzerland because it offered opportunity to engage with diverse organizations in terms of context and scope. For example, I held meetings with colleagues employed within local leisure and sports services, and within institutions with continental and global reach, e.g. UEFA, the United Nations and the World Health Organization. Switzerland also provided a very different context to the domestic one within which to consider my research. It is relatively close to the UK, affording me opportunity to sustain the professional relationships I have formed.

I held eight meetings during the twelve days of the trip. The highlight was with the team responsible for coordinating the “Global action plan on the public health response to dementia”, at the World Health Organization.  As a result I have been invited to contribute to their strand of work relating to dementia friendly communities. Another high point was the day I spent with the community-based service offering support to people with dementia in Geneva. It was valuable to experience and reflect upon how such interventions are provided outside of the UK. I noted the emphasis which is placed on encouraging people to engage with the natural world, via the garden at the site where I spent time. This resonates with insights I am gathering from my own research.

At WHO Global Action Plan on dementia

That day, in common with many of the others, tested my French language skills. Indeed the entire visit was extremely useful in challenging me to engage with interested parties in a language that was not my own. Prior to departure I had drafted a range of supporting documentation in French. In my final visit, I presented my research in French to colleagues responsible for a large leisure centre in Lausanne.

A challenge now is to synthesize the actions I have gathered during the visit, to ensure I progress them, and also maintain contact with the colleagues interested in my research. Aside from forging new professional relationships, the primary benefits of the visit included being able to consider my research project from an entirely different context, and sharpening my organizational and administrative skills so that the project achieved success.

In addition to the Leisure Studies Association I am grateful to all the people I met in May for offering me their time and insight. I am also very appreciative to my supervisory team, and to my student peer group for all the help and support they gave me in relation to this project.


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