Mikael Kiviniemi on how Better leisure centres are making sure they’re accessible to all
Tell us about your role.
I am the community sports manager for Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) in Islington. We work in partnership with Islington Council and run the Better leisure centres in the borough. There are lots of different activities people can get involved in, including swimming, gym, fitness classes and racket sports.
The main aim of my role is to increase participation and ensure the centres are accessible to everyone within the community. This includes making our centres a friendly and welcoming place for people living with dementia.
Why is it important that everyone has access to leisure centres?
GLL is a charitable social enterprise, which means we are a not-for-profit organisation. We understand the value of sport and physical activity for people of all ages: being active has so many benefits, including improved physical, mental and social wellbeing. We manage so many great facilities across Islington – one of the things I enjoy most about my job is providing people with opportunities to get the most out of them.
I’ve always loved playing sport. As well as the health benefits, sport and physical activity can be great fun. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to meet new people and make friends. It’s great when a new person comes to a session and then goes on to become a regular!
What sorts of activities can people get involved in?
Our aim is to provide facilities that are accessible for all, which includes providing memberships and activities that are good value for money. We offer monthly or pay as you go memberships, including a range of discounted options for particular groups. People can also try our facilities before committing to a membership.
One programme we offer is a social sports session called the Better get together. This is available for anyone aged 60-plus for £2.50 per week. We run sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Sobell Leisure Centre and Wednesdays at Finsbury Leisure Centre. Participants can take part in table tennis, short mat bowls, badminton or dominos. We also have a social area where people can enjoy a chat over a cup of tea or coffee.
There’s also an annual competition called the Better club games at the Copper Box Arena, where participants compete against other boroughs. The next one is coming up on the 26 September!
Another offer is free casual swimming for Islington residents aged 60-plus. With a Better adults senior pay-as-you-go membership, which costs £6.30 per year, you can swim Monday to Friday and after 1pm on weekends at Highbury Leisure Centre, Archway Leisure Centre, Cally Pool and Ironmonger Row Baths.
Any exciting updates on the horizon?
In the future I’d like to look at developing more activities for people living with dementia.
When I worked in another borough, we ran dementia-friendly fitness classes and swimming sessions, which the participants enjoyed, especially those that included music. This is definitely something I’d like to consider for the Islington centres. It would also be great to hear from people living with dementia, their friends and family on the types of activities they would like to see.
GLL have also joined the Dementia Friendly Islington Partner Network, led by Islington Council and attended by a range of organisations. I am keen to develop more partnerships through this network and look at running joint sessions or initiatives in the future.
Has there been any progress on becoming more dementia-friendly so far?
Fifteen members of staff took part in a dementia friends information session, which was hosted by an Islington Alzheimer’s Society ambassador. It was great for our staff to learn more about dementia and how it affects people in their day-to-day living and what small things staff could do to provide support. It was a great session and I think it will help our staff when working with customers. Going forward, we’d like to give as many staff as possible the opportunity to take part in one of these sessions.