Pilot work by our group has demonstrated that aquatic exercise has valuable functional and psychosocial benefits for adults living in the residential aged care setting with dementia. The aim of the currents study was to advance this work by delivering the Watermemories Swimming Club aquatic exercise program to a more representative population of older, institutionalized adults with dementia.
The benefits of 12 weeks of twice weekly participation in the Watermemories Swimming Club aquatic exercise program were assessed among an exercise and usual care control group of residential aged care adults with advanced dementia. A battery of physical and psychosocial measures were collected before and after the intervention period, and program implementation was also investigated.
Seven residential aged care facilities of 24 approached, agreed to participate and 56 residents were purposefully allocated to exercise or control. Twenty-three participants per group were included in the final analysis. Both groups experienced decreases in skeletal muscle index and lean mass (p < 0.001), but exercise stifled losses in muscle strength and transition into sarcopenic. Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia and activities of daily living approached significance (p = 0.06) with positive trends observed across other psychosocial measures.
This study demonstrates the value of exercise participation, and specifically aquatic exercise in comparison to usual care for older, institutionalized adults with advanced dementia. However, it also highlights a number of barriers to participation. To overcome these barriers and ensure opportunity to residents increased provider and sector support is required.