Lia Dekker

Lia Dekker dedicates herself to working as a fitness specialist at the Dutch organization Attent Zorg en Behandeling, a group of homes for people with dementia and somatic disorders. She works together with two colleagues. Her goal is to stimulate older people to have fun while exercising, so that they will keep active. Her work is her passion.

“I started to work as a nurse, but now I’ve been working with older people for over 36 years, mostly with people with dementia. To keep them active I organise recreational activities and check which functional movements they perform on a daily basis.

I work in close collaboration with the physiotherapy department. I advise my colleagues who take care of the elderly and I also work daily with the residents. On top of that, I give presentations to caretakers, volunteers, family and friends in order to keep them aware of how important physical exercise is for the daily functioning and the quality of life of residents. They have to know how important movement is. In fact, I spend my working days encouraging all kinds of people and sharing my passion for exercising with them."

Activities for people with dementia

“People become less inclined to be active when they get older. During the day time, they tend to sleep. This passive way of life has negative consequences, both physically and mentally. To get people to be active, they have to be enticed and encouraged to move. When I succeed to get someone to be active, the positive effects are amazing. In the end, the residents do enjoy going outside, playing a game, strolling or being active in another way.

Social interaction is also an important part of moving together. Every day I am positively surprised by how the residents enjoy participating in various activities. Most of the time, it is difficult to entice someone to be active. But once they get moving, you see a smile appear on their face. After the activity is over, residents frequently come to me to say they had fun.”

Making exercising fun

“Of course, exercising should be fun. A boring lesson, during which you have to lift your arms and legs, doesn’t work. Moving should be made enjoyable by means of social interaction and diverse materials. The SilverFit Mile succeeds in that. People can bike on a special bike, sitting on a regular chair or in a wheelchair. What’s particularly interesting is that it is so easily accessible, that it can be used by almost everyone, including people with physical disabilities, and people with dementia, even at the third level of the disease.

On the screen, they watch a movie of the route that they can choose themselves. It’s surprising to see how discussions rise from watching these routes, and how it brings back old memories.”

Breathtaking moments

“A great share of our residents come from Arnhem, and therefore they tend to choose the movie that has been filmed there. They have often lived here their whole life, but because of dementia, the memories of the city are blurry. Then suddenly there is this route of Arnhem. People go sit up straight and remember everything, such as the famous windmill in Klarendal, or the city center. That is very nice to see. There was also a man, who was born and raised in Bergen op Zoom, but could not go there anymore. When this route appeared on the screen, he recognized the streets and started to smile. By chance, his wife was there on that day. They had met each other in Bergen op Zoom. Old memories flew back. That was of course a breathtaking moment. Each time, this man would come back to bike through Bergen op Zoom. Those are special moments and they make my job so fascinating.”

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