"It Is Part of Belonging": Walking Groups to Promote Social Health amongst People Living with Dementia



Robertson JM, Gibson G, Pemble C, Harrison R, Strachan K & Thorburn S (2020) "It Is Part of Belonging": Walking Groups to Promote Social Health amongst People Living with Dementia. Social Inclusion, 8 (3), pp. 113-122.

People with dementia often report experiencing a ‘shrinking world’ connected with reduced opportunities to access physical and social spaces. This article applies the framework of social health (Dröes et al., 2017; Huber et al., 2011) as a theoretical lens through which to consider how inclusive walking groups can facilitate access to places and spaces to support people with dementia to remain connected in their communities. Findings are reported from walking interviews and focus group discussions with people with dementia, family carers, volunteers and walk leaders who participated in a national programme of dementia-friendly walking groups in Scotland. Thematic analysis of the data demonstrates that participation has a positive impact on social health, supporting people living with dementia to fulfil their potential, to engage in meaningful activity and to manage both their condition and their wider lives. Benefits include providing a context for continuing social participation and relationships for people with dementia and family carers. Additionally, groups provide a safe space where people with dementia can walk with autonomy and help to reinforce a sense of capacity and agency. Wider implications include the role of walking groups in fostering interdependencies between people with dementia and their wider communities by promoting an enabling ethos of dementia ‘inclusiveness.’ The benefits of developing an inclusive and supportive approach to involving people living with dementia in walking groups could extend more broadly to the wider community, with such initiatives acting as a catalyst for growing levels of social participation.

dementia; community; environment; inclusion; outdoors; social health; walking

Social Inclusion: Volume 8, Issue 3

Publication date31/12/2020
Publication date online31/07/2020
Date accepted by journal29/04/2020

People (2)


Dr Grant Gibson

Dr Grant Gibson

Senior Lecturer, Dementia and Ageing

Dr Cate Pemble

Dr Cate Pemble

Research Fellow (Qualitative), Dementia and Ageing