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Let Everyone Shine

MOVEability's Debbie with her 'co-pilot' Derek during a seated chair exercise class at Alice Bye Court in Thatcham Berkshire

It had begun like any other class when, partway through, Derek, one of our regulars, suddenly got up, walked to the front and stood next to me. I reached for a chair and asked Derek if he wanted to be my co-pilot. Derek’s response was non-committal, so I encouraged him to join me and continued with the class, sharing co-pilot instructions with him as I went. He joined in with some, sat through others and at times made up his own moves. All in all, he did a great job, and I told him so, saying he could be my co-pilot any time he wanted – he has already taken me up on that offer!

Truly inclusive

There are a few things I haven’t mentioned about Derek …. he is a funny, charming and popular gentleman who has Dementia. As he came and stood next to me, in that split second, I had a choice. I could have tried to encourage him back to his seat with the help of his daughter, who was there supporting him, or, as was the case, embrace his curiosity and let him stay at the front. Actually, there was no choice. My decision was both natural and instant – at MOVEability, inclusivity is as important to us as it is to our participants – as reflected by the rest of the class when they happily embraced Derek’s curiosity, too.    

What is inclusivity?

Diversity for Social Impact defines inclusivity as ‘making sure everyone feels welcome, valued, and respected, no matter who they are or where they come from.’ This is a direct reflection of MOVEability’s values, which, as the story above illustrates, are shared by our class participants.

From the start, it has been essential to us that our classes are:

  • welcoming
  • open to all ages and abilities
  • easily accessible

Also, that there is:

  • no pressure to attend – no one feels excluded because they might not be able to come along every week
  • no pressure to get it right – everyone can do as much or as little as they like

Sitting to the side 

For various reasons, usually related to their health, people often come to our classes saying ‘they almost didn’t come’ or ‘I’m not going to be able to do much’. They may join in, opting to perhaps move just a little of their upper or their lower body. Or they may decide to simply sit and watch and have a little singalong to the popular tunes we play. At that particular class on that day, whatever they choose will be enough for them. That they have managed to get out and meet their ‘MOVEability friends’ is most important to them and us.

During one class, I observed a new participant barely moving and was convinced they were not enjoying themselves at all. Speaking to them afterwards, they told me they thoroughly enjoyed the class, even though being in a lot of pain limits their movement. After reassuring them that there are no expectations at our classes, with everyone being encouraged to ‘do what feels comfortable’, they said they would definitely be returning. With so much evidence showing that exercise is a great pain management strategy, I was delighted to see them back the following week.

Distance is no object

With participants from as far afield as Scotland, Lincolnshire, and Weston Super Mare, our online classes are inclusive in a way that our onsite classes aren’t yet, but we do have plans to expand beyond Berkshire. In fact, one of our online classes gives a couple of long-distance friends who are class regulars the opportunity to catch up with one another each week; whilst we cannot offer a chat over a complimentary cuppa and biscuit, like in our onsite classes, we do give people the opportunity to chat at the start and end of each class.

Coming for a giggle 

Again, in one of our online classes, we have a regular who doesn’t always exercise but likes to take part because it makes them feel included and is doing wonders for their mental health. In their words, “I always leave the class feeling so much better than when I joined; at every class, I manage to giggle about something, even if I don’t do any exercise; just being at the class makes me happy.” To us, that’s what counts. 

The gift that keeps on giving

Making sure everyone who wants to access our online classes can is another thing we have committed to since the start. We offer hands-on support through email and phone or video calls – something that hasn’t escaped the growing number of social prescribers we work with who have told us tech issues, perceived or actual, are one of the biggest barriers to encouraging people to try online classes.

That certainly isn’t the case with MOVEability online classes. In fact, one lady we recently helped access our Zoom classes told us she now uses the skills we taught her to have Zoom calls with friends and family. So, a gift that keeps on giving.

The spirit of support

The spirit of kindness and support that characterises all we do isn’t restricted to MOVEability staff. We have a growing number of aptly named ‘MOVEability ambassadors’ in regulars and volunteers who are committed to making the classes the best they can be – helping to set up and pack away classes, serve tea and coffee, spread the word about our classes to friends and family, share our posts on Facebook and Nextdoor and distribute leaflets in their local communities.

Knowing I don’t have much time between classes, one wonderful lady goes as far as to make me a delicious sandwich on Thursdays. 

Every week, I see many examples of class participants helping each other. Providing a non-judgemental listening ear, rallying around to offer lifts and more. These are the kind, generous, warm and simply wonderful people who join our classes.

The ‘MOVEability love’ just keeps on growing.💜

Welcomed with open arms 

Our classes attract people from varying backgrounds with differing abilities and ages ranging from their 30s to their 90s, who come along for many different reasons – variety is the spice of life, as they say!

Whoever you are and whatever your reasons for joining, one thing is for sure: you will be welcomed with open arms, kindness and respect. We let everyone shine.

Browse our classes

New class

Circling back to the opening story, we are excited to announce the launch of another new class in the form of a Friendship Cafe with movement to music. Open to everyone, but with those who are supported by carers/family in mind, this class will involve a 40-minute exercise session followed by a chance to socialise over a cuppa and a biscuit with other activities available. Held at Newbury Grove, the Friendship Cafe, as it will be called, will launch on 19th April. Watch this space!