On Tuesday we joined up with the Maidstone Dementia Friendly Community to arrange a Dementia Awareness Week 2017 event. As usual the normal "thinking outside the box" took place and we decided that it would be great to show dementia in a different way!
The day started with a quick introduction by everyone, We had a mix of businesses, individuals and people "living with dementia". There was a mixture of understanding of what living with dementia means and how it could impact upon us all in the future. We didn't dwell on that for to long because the sun was shining and we had some balls to hit.
We had our light lunch and then mixed it up a bit. Paired up in mixed groups we headed off to collect our buggies. Those living with dementia had the keys to the buggies. They were surprised and shocked that they had been let lose with the keys but they were reassured that we had faith and confidence that they wouldn't drive them into the lake! Smiles and laughter soon showed through.
A quick practice on the nets soon showed that we didn't have the next PGA Major's Champion but for sure we were going to have some fun!
Off to the first tee! As the first team tee'd off we all saw a change in the oldest member or our teams who was living with dementia. Before his diagnosis he played golf on a regular basis and on the build up to the event had doubts that he could play golf again. As he stood on the first tee we all saw the moment when he realised that he had still got it what it takes and hit the ball up the fairway. His smile at the moment when he hit that first ball will stay in all of our memories.
Off they went up the fairway (okay may be not the fastest and definitely not on par!) laughing all the way. We had plenty of jokers in the pack as we found out when team two started to take their swing at the first tee; the balls hit fence posts, bridges and river banks. The tears of laughter were heard at the clubhouse. After a quick catch up with group one who ran off with the bag of balls (certainly needed by team two) they were away!
Now, we did have a team three but we will come back to them shortly....
Over two hours was spent laughing and enjoying the sun and finding out so much about each other, oh, and six holes of golf (yes two hours and six holes but who cares we had fun!). Back at the clubhouse we sat and had a drink together sharing what today had giving each and every one of us. The usual thank yous and we had great time followed, but it wasn't until a few days later we came to realised how much of an impact this simple day had on everyone.
Oh, and as for team three, this was made up of two companies and one of the Wrinkly Directors unfortunately no-one "living with dementia" . All that can be said is they were the last to tee off and the first to be back at the 19th hole. Impressive I hear you say...... Errr NO they gave up at the second hole when they saw the length of the third fairway. Something to do with sparkly shoes. We will leave that there for team three, rest assured they received no prizes not even a medal!
The businesses and individuals all said that playing golf with someone living with dementia has given them an experience they will never forget; from seeing the effects that dementia has first hand, to listening to their stories as they walked the course. It has provided an awareness that could never have been shown in a classroom. We have already had a positive response by all that came along and hope to be working with all again very soon to continue to improve/reduce the impacts of living with dementia. It doesn't stop here.
We have had an immense response from all those "living with dementia" here are just some for the comments:
"Thank you, thank you, thank you for a wicked and wonderful event. I had a fantastic time!"
"We as a group of people living with Dementia can see how you are making a difference to the perception of this terrible decease. It is great the way you have joined so many different groups, business and otherwise, together at your awareness and educational events along with fun events. And long may that continue !!"
"Thank you for the chance you gave me to kick some butt, they thought I couldn't do it... but I showed them!"
"I have the most fantastic day.. and I don't want this day to end!"
Unfortunately, that day did have to end but the compliments kept flooding in when we shared our photos around the group. One person "living with Dementia! doesn't have email so he was kindly taken to the local library and they both relived the day.
"it was great for me to reshare those moments with him.. thank you again!"
I can't imagine the trouble the pair of them caused in that library that day!
We have learnt a huge amount from that day. We not only raised awareness for people who don't live with dementia by giving them a true experience of the effects of dementia but we also raised the awareness of people "living with Dementia" as to what they still can achieve.
We would like to give a massive thank you to all that came along and took part. We all played a part in making that day a tremendous and fantastic experience and yes like a good BBC drama we will be back next year.
And, just before we go, the Wrinkly team would like to pass a special thank you to Cobtree Manor Golf Course who kindly supported our event with golf buggies, a professional (he was definitely required) and prizes and hats for the day. We would like to thank their on-site team who made everyone feel welcome and at home. The relaxed atmosphere they provided helped all of us have a great day.