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This week is Dementia Awareness Week, an initiative to try and raise the profile of an illness which as we all begin to live longer lives is becoming increasingly prevalent in society.

Researchers are finding that one thing that can mitigate the symptoms of illnesses like dementia is getting outdoors. Many sufferers still have glowing memories of past contact with nature. The memory of the outdoor games of their childhood, the wild places they discovered, the colours, smell and feel of nature, often remain strong.

My own grandfather suffered from dementia in the last years of his life. Despite everything we could do for him he was confused, frightened and upset. Not only could he not live in his own home but he couldn’t recognise the faces of his own family.

One thing he could remember and take comfort in however was the family of birds which came to his window everyday to be fed crusts of bread. We talked about them whenever I visited, sometimes it was hard to strike up a conversation, but talking about the birds made his face light up.

From day to day he might forget who I was, but the birds were a constant, something he could hold onto and understand. They entertained him, they made him feel useful, they gave his actions meaning in a world where he must have felt there was little left. They made him smile.

These weren’t special birds, just a few chaffinches, robins and sparrows, but for what they add to thememories of my Grandad they are worth their weight in gold.

Everyone can build these memories and these connections, and the best time to start doing so is right now. Get outside into Cumbernauld’s parks, woodlands and wildlife reserves, and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Paul Barclay Community Networks Officer

 


Paul Barclay