News & Events

New outside exercise park research at Liscombe House

July 27, 2020

Can taking part in an outside exercise program make a difference to the health and wellbeing of aged care residents living with dementia*?

That is the question that residents of Liscombe House will be endeavouring to answer in conjunction with researchers from the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI).

Led by Associate Professor Pazit Levinger, the research program – the ENJOY program for Independence in Dementia – has been funded through the international arm of the Alzheimer’s Association.

“We are very excited about starting this work as it is the first time that this type of exercise program has been tested and applied to people living with dementia,” Pazit said.

At the centre of the program is the purpose-built outdoors Seniors Exercise Park in Leith Park. The exercise stations have been specifically designed for older people to improve strength, balance, flexibility, mobility and function. The park is the only one of its kind in an aged care setting in Victoria; there are two others in public parks.

An estimated 365,000 Australians had dementia in 2017, 99% of whom were aged 60 and over. The total number of people affected by dementia is projected to rise to 900,000 by 2050.

“In Australia, almost half of people with dementia in 2015 lived in care accommodation (such as residential aged care facilities) and nearly all had an associated disability,” Pazit said.

She said the program will focus on mobility and strength in a group setting, emphasising socialisation and enjoyment.

Each participant will undergo a 12-week structured supervised program using the equipment followed by 12 weeks of independent exercise.

Known as a feasibility pilot randomized controlled trial, the participants will be divided into two groups: a control group and a Seniors Exercise Park group. They will be assessed before, during and after the program to see the program’s effect on each person.

Shaaron Robilliard, OCAV’s Director of Nursing, said she was thrilled that Liscombe House was trialling the program with its residents living with dementia.

“We are committed to being a dementia-friendly community, and being physically and social active is good dementia care,” Shaaron said.

There are no disease-modifying treatments for dementia, so anything that can help manage the symptoms is welcomed.

“Less than 25% of older Australians do enough physical activity to achieve health benefit, and those living in residential aged care spend much of their time inactive and sitting down,” Shaaron said.

She hopes that the program will help those taking part improve their walking and help them become more independent.

The Seniors Exercise Park was installed at
Leith Park in July 2019 in partnership with the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) with funding from Perpetual’s 2018 IMPACT Philanthropy Program and Gandel Philanthropy. Lark Industries supplied the eight exercise stations tailored to older people, designed to improve strength, balance and mobility.

*The person featured in this article is not living with dementia. She is a volunteer who has been trained by NARI researchers.


Volunteering is important to Deb, enabling her to contribute in the aged care sector. “I love it when the residents get downright cheeky. I love it when we get a bit too loud with laughing."

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