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Neil Mapes

CEO, Dementia Adventure

Being outside is good for everyone’s wellbeing — and that particularly applies to people with dementia who are at risk of social isolation says Neil Mapes, CEO of Dementia Adventure.

Q: How do outdoor activities help those living with dementia?

A: There’s plenty of evidence to demonstrate the physical and emotional benefits of being outside. It’s good for our wellbeing because we’re human and hard-wired to want a connection with nature. That especially applies to people with dementia who are more likely to be isolated from society.

Q: Why do they become isolated?

A: Say you love walking your dog, cycling and going on holiday each year, but then you’re diagnosed with dementia. All those things you enjoy are taken away from you because you lose the confidence to do them. How would you feel about not being able to walk the dog because your partner was worried that you might not come back? We want people to get outdoors, connect with nature and enjoy a sense of adventure in their lives. Because there’s something magical that happens when you cross the threshold. It’s the sun on your face, a breath of fresh air.

Q: Why are supported holidays good for people with dementia?

A: Just say you get to a service station with your husband, who has dementia. He goes to the gents and you go to the ladies, but there’s a queue – so he gets out before you do and doesn’t know where you are. Then you come out in a panic wondering where he is. Those sorts of experiences are enough to stop people going on holiday.

Supported holidays rebalance the narrative of dementia being wholly negative, and focus on the things people can do if they have the right support. That gives them confidence to try new things.

Q: What new activities can people living with dementia try?

A: Kayaking or zip-wiring are just some of the activities that people may have never done before and which place them out of their comfort zone. Supported holidays can offer these types of adventure, which make smaller activities feel more manageable. When they get home, they might think: ‘We went zip-wiring last week! I’m sure we can go to the local park.’

Supported holidays are beneficial for carers, too, because they’re not solely responsible for the person with dementia, 24/7, in the way they are at home.

They can be so embroiled in occupational therapy, social work visits and benefits assessments that they forget about the simple pleasures of being outdoors together. When we’ve done training with family carers, 82% of delegates say they have more confidence to go outdoors and try new things because they’ve a more positive understanding of their situation.

Q: What benefits have you seen supported holidays give people with dementia?

A: Pure joy on people’s faces. And relief, knowing that they are not on their own because there are volunteers choosing to spend time with them, supporting them. That says a lot about how valued they are as members of society.

More information

Dementia Adventure has been given £1.4million over the last six years by the People’s Postcode Lottery, making holidays possible for 620 people with dementia.

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