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Could you lead a dementia friendly exercise class and bring joy to your own and others' lives?

Weekly in Fenland towns, rooms fill with people who are all in the same very difficult boat and they laugh, sing, do some light exercise and find understanding and friendship.

Love to Move class at Damsons group

They come together for 'Love to Move' seated exercise classes for people with dementia and their carers, which are now available at several locations in the district, with ambitions to increase.

Love to Move class at Damsons group

Image above: The 'Love to Move' group at Damsons, Wisbech, enjoys a sing along and exercise session.

"Best thing I've ever done"

Julia Mallett, 61, of Walpole Highway, is a volunteer class deliverer.

She said: "This is the best thing I have ever done. I wish I had found it years ago. When in life do you get to do something you really enjoy and everybody is telling you 'thank you'?

"I would recommend to anybody to do the training and get a group going because it is fantastic."

Julia Mallett

Image above: Volunteer 'Love to Move' deliverer Julia Mallett said: "I would recommend to anybody to do the training and get a group going because it is fantastic."

Julia was volunteering with the Damsons group for people with dementia and their carers run by the National Trust at Peckover House, Wisbech, when they had a 'Love to Move' taster session. She was instinctively drawn to 'Love to Move' and put herself forward to train as a deliverer.

Julia feels a kinship with people whose lives are touched by dementia. She lost her husband John in 2015 when he was just 53, having cared for him for four years following a brain tumour and subsequent surgery that left him disabled.

"No one thinks is going to happen to them"

Julia said: "I think it gave me an empathy for people in this situation, which no one thinks is going to happen to them.

"We were expecting this long retirement together, but this happened to us when we were so young."

Julia joined Damsons in 2022.

After losing John, she'd left the job at Tesco she did for 23 years and taken a full-time role at Hutchinsons, Wisbech, but ultimately pursued early retirement.

She said: "When something like that happens to you, it puts a different perspective on your life. I wanted a different work/life balance."

Leader training opportunities

'Love to Move' is a British Gymnastics Foundation programme designed to improve cognitive function, health and wellbeing in a fun and social environment.

Fenland District Council's Active Fenland supported Julia's 'Love to Move' training and the specialist training of several other deliverers to bring the programme to the district. 'Love to Move' is also available in Chatteris and March.

Julia delivers sessions weekly at Damsons.

Active Fenland is keen to collaborate with more individuals and organisations with staff or volunteers interested in training to bring 'Love to Move' sessions to more people across Fenland.

'Love to Move' session leaders can work towards a deliverer qualification and licence.

'Love to Move' classes are one of a range of Active Fenland sessions for people who might face additional barriers to accessing exercise, funded by Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Integrated Care System (ICS).

"I was apprehensive at first"

Tony Ardener, 73, goes along to Damsons with wife Sylvia, 76. He was originally told about Damsons by a social prescriber - a professional who connects people with activities that may support their wellbeing, though anyone can go to Damsons without a referral.

He said: "I was apprehensive at first, not knowing what to expect but it has become like a special family. It helps us so much and makes our lives better. It's a lifesaver really. I look forward to Wednesdays."

Carer Tony Ardener

Image above: Carer Tony Ardener takes his wife along to 'Love to Move' sessions at Damsons. He said: "It helps us so much and makes our lives better"

'Love to Move' is popular with him.

He said: "It helps me too because I suffer with a bit of arthritis. The 'Love to Move' keeps my joints going. The worst thing you can do is sit in a chair and do nothing.

"My wife loves the singing and music."

"Just one example of the fabulous work Active Fenland does"

Fenland District Council portfolio holder for leisure Cllr Alex Miscandlon said: "Love to Move is just one example of the fabulous work Active Fenland does to bring health and wellbeing opportunities to the district.

"I'd encourage everyone to take a look at the programme and see what's available. And, of course, we'd love to hear from any organisations or individuals that could help increase the number of Love to Move sessions for people with dementia and their carers by receiving session leader training."

Love to Move session details

  • To find out about training free to be a 'Love to Move' session leader, contact: or call Heidi Lemmon on 07592 774656 (please leave a message).
  •  'Love to Move' sessions take place:
    • 11am to 12.30pm Thursdays at King Edward Community Centre, King Edward Road, Chatteris PE16 6NG. No need to book just turn up - or for more information contact
    • 11am to 12.30pm Tuesdays at March Braza Club, Elm Road, PE15 8NZ. No need to book just turn up - or for more information contact
    • As part of Damsons sessions, on 1pm to 3pm, Wednesdays, at Peckover House, Wisbech - which is now quite a busy and full session.
  • Damsons offers social, craft and fun activities around the 'Love to Move' session.

Damsons also meets 1pm to 3pm Tuesdays and 10am to noon Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 'Love to Move' is not currently offered at these sessions.

For information about joining Damsons, contact 01945 583463 or email

Active Fenland secures grant funding to provide a wide range of free and low-cost activity, health and wellbeing sessions to the people of Fenland.

Discover other Active Fenland exercise and wellbeing sessions for all at: Active Fenland

Keep up-to-date with Fenland District Council via FacebookX (formerly Twitter)LinkedIn and our newsletter The Fenlander.

May 2024

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