Community,

“It’s exhilarating. I just love the atmosphere.”

Renée finds swimming has provided her with a much-needed boost to her wellbeing as she looks after her Mum who has dementia.

Renée, 60, takes up the story:

“My mother, who is 85, was diagnosed with dementia in February. I was finding it very hard to juggle my work – I’m a teacher – with going to visit my Mum, who lived in London. So I gave up work to look after Mum. And then, with all the travelling, it made more sense for her to come and live with us. I’m just having some adaptations done to the house to make life a little bit easier for her now that she’s here with us.

“I think when you are at home like that, it’s really important to be able to have somewhere like Inspire to go to.”

Active Luton, with the help of significant funding from Luton Rising, runs sports facilities across Luton. Its largest, Inspire, is a multi-sports facility with a large modern gym and two swimming pools. Its mission is to inspire the local community to get active and improve its health and wellbeing. That was certainly the case with Renée. She says:

“There’s something different about the connection that you have with the water. And I think that helps my mental wellbeing.

“I used to teach, and I thought that that was quite stressful. Well, looking after my Mum is worse at times, because it’s so full on and you don’t actually have a break. So my getting up and swimming in the mornings, before she gets up, just sets me up for the day.

“The warmth that I get from the community, from the other people who are swimming, some of them a bit younger, maybe swimming just before they go to work.

“I was quite amazed at how many different types of people were swimming.

“There’s a lady that I know, and she’s in her seventies. And she’s still swimming. So we swim every morning. I started to enjoy being in the water and it was quite exhilarating. It was relaxing. And I just love the atmosphere.

“And the staff are very friendly there as well. I’m loving it. I went swimming this morning. It’s definitely my main form of exercise.

“Obviously, when you’re at home most of the time, as I am, you need to have that outlet. They’ve got a little cafe at Inspire where you can sit down and have a drink and chat with somebody. And I’ve started an exercise class with some of the ladies that I swim with as well.

“I find that that helps my mental wellbeing, being able to speak to people, to communicate, just to find out how you are.

A lady said to me the other day, when we were swimming in the pool, she said, ‘you’re always so happy and always smiling. It’s really lovely to be able to swim with you.’ And I thought that that was really nice. It’s just such a lovely compliment.

“You have to be able to take care of your mental well wellbeing. Even when you’re not in the water, just listening to the sound of water flowing, it makes me feel relaxed.

“Once I’m in the water, I have that feeling of moving through the water with my body, it’s just a wonderful, wonderful feeling.”