A Little Bit of History Part 3

Thirty years is a long time in one job and when you finally make the decision to jump ship life can get a bit scary. Whilst I’d maintained a grip on reality by working as a freelance sports journalist as a hobby, Local Government was all I’d known until 2013. Not that I’m complaining the way things worked out, but I was a direct victim of the 2008 crash. A bunch of bankers who would probably have taken less risk if they’d put their funds on the 2:30 at Kempton Park had produced a siesmic schockwave that gave birth to austerity. By the time the aftershocks had reached rural Hertfordshire a department of 29 had to find £100,000 from somewhere. To be honest I’d always wanted to get out at a certain time so unlike so many people who had their lives turned upside down it suited me at the time. My passage out was eased by being taken on immeadiately by an Environmental consultancy run by someone I’d known for a good 20 years. What followed was three years of editing a website, event organising and conducting You Tube interviews. The latter led to me being called the “Public Health Parkinson” by a certain Director of Public Health. Fun as it was a lot of it was achieved on-line and I began hankering for the day to day contact of working with people once again.

Doing a Google search on ‘charity jobs’ may well have changed many lives and it certainly changed mine. I learned that the Alzheimer’s Society were looking for a Group Activity Support Manager in West Essex, whatever one of those was? In for a penny in for a pound I applied with little hope of success, after all what did I really know about dementia? To my great surprise I was offered an interview along with the task of preparing a presentation to persuade commissioners about the value of social groupings for people living with dementia! Now I’m no stranger to presentations having once talked to Commenwealth MP’s about climate change at the Houses of Parliament but this one had me foxed. In the end I started with a game of tiddly winks to demonstrate how games can break the ice and lighten the mood and finished with a recording of Sam from 1988 (See A Little Bit of History Part 1) and it did the trick.

To be honest my first day didn’t bode well for the future, I was expecting an introduction to dementia and the services of the Alzheimers Society I got a pile of policies to read through and a form to assure I understood them. Things didn’t get much better as I was introduced to Salesforce and Arena the internal computer systems which were as blunt as the bluntest of instruments. Two weeks in I injured my foot and was forced to limp about on a crutch for seven days. By then I had been let loose on the groups I was charged with managing which already left me worrying about the wisdom of using a 17th building with a spiral fire escape and an area of glass floor for one of our venues! My injury coincided with an illness for one of my group leaders which left me faced with the prospect of leading two activity groups while hobbling on a crutch. At the time I was terrified now I look back and recognise it was one of the pivotal moments which dictated what I’m doing now and why I’m writing things like this blog.

That day I learned more about how to communicate with people living with dementia than any book could tell me. The key I found was simple…be yourself. I’m a North London lad who loves music and football I was faced with a roomful of people who may live in Essex but virtually all had London roots everyone was up for a laugh and once I got chatting to Elsie about the Dave Clark Five playing Tottenham Royal and Bernard about Leyton Orient I was in. From that day I developed friendships with our group members and their families some of which I’m happy to say remain today. Thats not to say it was all easy going. The first time I realised what dementia was really about was one Monday afternoon. I was sitting with George looking at a picture of Mohammed Ali, “Do you like boxing George?” I asked “I used to box in the army I was a bantomweight,” he replied before giving me a complete description of one of his fights from the 50’s. A couple of minutes later I’d drifted away to another table when George beckoned me over, “Pete” he said “Remind me where the toilet is again.”

I also quickly learned that a life in Environmental Health had given me the ability to think on my feet as it was obvious that despite the reams of policies and procedures little was going to be invested in teaching me how to cope with what was thrown at me everyday. From questions about 85 year old former boxers having a knife to peel their lunchtime apple to carers crying on my shoulder it certainly couldn’t be described as anything but interesting.

Looking back my first few months were certainly a case of sink or swim, on one hand I was working hard to gain the confidence of our group members, my staff and volunteers, on the other I was already banging my head against a wall of bureaucracy that even 30 years in local government hadn’t prepared me for.


A Little Bit of History Part II

I often feel privaledged to have lived in two centuries, my grandmother or ‘nana’ as she was always known lived through three. Two world wars the invention of the television, and landing a man on the moon were just a few of the moments of history she witnessed. Born two years before Queen Victoria died in many ways she remained a lady of victorian principles. Starting life in the infamous Beaconsfield Buildings in Islington, that were constructed by the Victoria Dwellings Association to provide healthy and comfortable dwellings for the labouring classes. The 1911 census shows her at age 11 living at 8F Beaconsfield Buildings with nine others in a flat that only had three rooms.

My first memory is visiting the house she occuppied with my grandad Ted in Wood Green North London early in the 1960’s. After Ted had travelled around the country as a jobbing electrician taking his family with him. According to family legend at one stage he worked with the team that split the atom. Quite how much truth there was in that I have never found out, the only thing I know is grandads Christmas lights were always attached to the wall socket courtesy of bare wires and strategically placed match sticks. By the time they moved to Perth Road in 1950 they had two children in tow. My Mum who was born in 1928 and my uncle Edward who was 13 at the time. Edward was born with both mental and physical disabilities suffering numerous epileptic attacks which led the National Neurological Hospital to declare they would be surprised if he saw out his teens. In effect he defied the doctors, passing away in 2008 at the age of 71.

Nana was a tough lady after grandad Ted died suddenly in 1971 she dedicated the rest of her life to caring for her son well into her 90’s. That involved cooking, washing, dressing, and attending to Uncle Edward’s every need. As time began to catch up with her she reluctantly accepted carers but on most occasions they would sit with a cup of tea while she continued the routine she’d started over half a century ago. She wasn’t an easy woman to get on with and there’s no doubt that there were some complicted politics within the family. On one occasion a man called Uncle Bill turned up to stay a few nights Nana making it perfectly clear when he was out of earshot he was bad news and we shouldn’t have anything to do with him.

Aunt Daise was Nana’s younger sister in fact when the two were 96 and 91 respectively the older sister still refered to her younger sibling as ‘that stupid young girl.’ Daisy was in the habit of staying at Perth Road every so often and it was after one of those visits that we began to have our suspicions that things weren’t quite right. “She’s not coming back as she’s stealing my stuff,” said Nana accusing her younger sister of removing certain household items. Eccentric to a tee, kind, generous with a personality that would think it her duty to give you her last shilling Aunt Daise was definitely not a thief. It transpired she’d left Wood Green in tears after being on the wrong end of her elder sisters tongue. Sadly the two were never really reconciled after that.

To be honest after that the word dementia wasn’t used Dad’s way of explaining was ‘I think your Nana’s going a bit funny.’ After that first incident what I then saw though was the slow decline I now know as typical of Alzheimer’s. That said she still soldiered on in the house for a couple of years and had a habit of turning it on for the crowd when Social Services turned up to carry out an assessment. I can clearly remember one case conference around the living room table when a rather pompous social worker got the full Nana treatment. “Now we are all gathered this afternoon to talk about Mrs Elizabeth Howard one of the elders of the borough,” only to be interupted by Nana shouting, “Oy I’m not a bleedin elder I’m an old age pensioner!” At Age 98 it finally became time for her to be moved from the house she’d occupied for 47 years I’d like to say it was a dignified ending as she shed a tear and closed the door for the last time but in reality she went after the emergency services had to break in for the final time.

Her remaining three years were spent in a lovely small residential home in Bounds Green where despite her often violent outbursts they treated her like family. On more than one occasion I arrived to be informed “your Nan is in her room and she’s in one of those moods.” Usually that meant somehow she’d managed to dress herself in her hat and coat from her wheelchair and was sitting in attack mode with her walking stick threatening anyone who came close. She never failed to recognise who I was and was convinced Dad was having an illicit affair with the woman who ran the home. Once she said to me ” you’re not a proper grandson you never ask me for money.” Deeply distrustful of banks what small amount she had was stashed away under various floorboards as we’d found when we were forced by an unsypathetic council to clear the house in three weeks. That was used to buy her various luxuries she still appreciated including an increasing number of bottles of gin. In fact later on we found that somehow because she’d given up formal work when Edward was born she never had a national insurance number.

As her health declined she payed regular visits to North Middlesex Hospital where on one occasion I found her edging up the ward at a snails pace with her zimmer frame. “Hello Nan where are you going?” I said “I’m going downstairs to see Ted!” she replied. I tried to reassure her that he wasn’t there but she was having none of it. In the end I had to politely inform the ward sister that we needed a bit of assistance as my grandmother was staging an escape bid. By this stage I realised that there was something major going on but in all honesty going back to my experiences at Friern Hospital I believed that most people in their 90’s were likely to behave in the same way.

Nana had one last chance to turn it on for the crowd in August 1999 when she celebrated her 100th birthday. As you can see from the quote above she rose to the occasion. When she finally went to sleep for the last time aged 101 it still didn’t really register that she’d been living with dementia for what must have been five or six years. Fast forward to 2016 and an interview room in Essex when I was asked the question ‘do you have any experience of dementia?’ My reply was ‘well my grandmother went a bit strange when she was about 96 but I guess at that age you are entitled to.’ RIP Nana

A Little Bit of History – Part 1

Friern Hospital where it all started.

I was asked the other day when I first started out on the TDW Radio project and without thinking I said about 1977. Not surprisingly the person who posed the question looked a little confused until I explained with a little bit of history.

It was a hot summers day in July 1977 and as I had done for a few years I was attending an Open Day at Friern Hospital in North London. The hospital had been part of my life for as long as I could remember living in the road opposite as I did. There’s no real way of dressing it up, it was an old victorian asylum which to most people was a pretty frightening place. Once a year though they let the locals in for a fete on the field and Mum and I were regular attendees, although I was under strict instructions for years, don’t talk to any strangers and don’t look the patients in the eye because it will upset them. On this particular afternoon my Mum knowing my love of music and attempts to run school disco’s had spotted a stand close to the main entrance with the words ‘Radio Friern’ above it. “Go and ask them how you become a DJ” she said pushing me forward. As I approached an amiable looking guy a couple of years older than me I some how blurted out the words; “er how do you become a DJ here?” Within minutes I was in a converted dental technicians lab that had been turned into a radio studio. I got to know it pretty well because I was still there for one final time 16 years later when the hospital closed.

I will never forget being taken into my first ward one night for what the presenters called ‘a visit’. The general idea being to talk to the staff and gather any requests for the nights programmes. Having seen the building from the outside I must admit I had little idea what it would look like from the inside. The answer was high ceilings, patches of peeling paint, and a general run down appearance. That though wasn’t my main impression, what concerned me much more were the circle of ‘patients’ sitting round staring at a TV which presented a picture which turned over every 30 seconds. Who were these people and what were they suffering from? The answer from the staff was they were geriatrics? They all seemed of a similar age but what about the younger woman in the corner who wasn’t as old as my Mum? That was Catherine who as I know now had early onset dementia sitting in a ward of dementia patients all at least 25 years her senior. Catherine was mild mannered and loved the song Mississippi by Pussycat a song we all got to know well.

As the years progressed we got more and more involved with the patients and staff dreaming up various wacky plans to try to lighten the gloom. Easter 1988 was a good example for some reason we decided it would be good to do a 27 hour non stop broadcast the first part of which would be a series of challenges for two sets of presenters. A kind of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here minus the creepy crawlies and the nauseating menu. One of the activities was to stage a party in one of the wards. This particular ward had managed to get an old piano from somewhere but they didn’t have anyone to play it. Then out of his armchair Sam arrived, he was in his 80’s as I now know living with dementia but that didn’t stop him banging out an hour of cracking party tunes. At the end I’ll be forever endebted to my friend Michelle who put a microphone in front of Sam who calmly looked up and said: “I came to this place many years ago and by and large this party has been the jolliest time I’ve had since I’ve been here. The only thng is next year you’ll have to find a second pianist.” No there wasn’t a dry eye in the house and true to his prediction when we did go back a year later Sam’s dementia had progressed and he could no longer play the piano.

I have no idea what happened to Catherine and Sam after the hospital closed. I do know though that they live on in my memory and to this day I carry the audio clip of Sam recorded at Easter 1988 on my phone. In fact I used it as the closing point of the presentation which got me a job with the Alzheimers Society. When Friern Hospital closed in 1993 I was already making my way as a freelance sports reporter on Chiltern Radio but it wasn’t long before dementia entered my life again….

TDW Radio Rock ’n’ Roll Reminiscence Kit January 1965


Yeh Yeh – Georgie Fame
Baby Please Don’t Go – Them
Cast Your Fate To The Wind – Sounds Orchestral
I’m Lost Without You – Billy Fury
You’ve Lost ThatLoving Feeling – Righteous Brothers
Girl Don’t Come – Sandie Shaw
Tired of Waiting For You – The Kinks
Paper Tiger – Sue Thompson
Come See About Me – Diana Ross & The Supremes
Come Tomorrow – Manfred Mann
Ferry Across The Mersey – Gerry & The Pacemakers
Go Now – The Moody Blues
Terry – Twinkle
Hold Me – PJ Proby
Leader of the Pack – Shangri La’s
Keep Searching – Del Shannon
I Feel Fine – Beatles
Getting Mighty Crowded – Betty Everett
Walk Tall – Val Doonican
Dance Dance Dance – Beach Boys

All the tracks are available on Spotify


Guests from 112 nations attended the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in St Pauli Cathedral. The ceremony was televised worldwide with an estimated audience of 350m viewers. Nearly a million mourners gathered on the streets as the funeral cortege made its way from Westminster Hall to St Pauls accompanied by 7,000 marching soldiers and nine military bands. Sir Winstons casket was then transported from St. Paul’s Cathedral to his birthplace, the village of Bladon, where he was buried at the St. Martin’s Church graveyard.

Cup holders West Ham started the defence of their trophy with a 4-2 win against Birmingham City in The FA Cup Third Round there were also wins for Manchester United, Leeds and Chelsea while Tottenham face a replay after being held 3-3 by Fourth Division Torquay. Margaret Smith won the Australian Open tennis championships after opponent Maria Bueno was forced to retire trailing 5-2 in the third set in Melbourne while Wales got their five nations rugby campaign off to the perfect start beating England 14-3 in Cardiff.

Identical twin brothers Ronald and Reginald Kray have been remanded in custody charged in connection with running a protection racket in London.
The brothers, described in court as company directors of the Glenrae Hotel, in Seven Sisters Road, North London, have been charged with demanding money with menaces in the County of London between 1 October 1964 and 6 January 1965. The twins, who are 31, were distinguishable in court only by their clothes. Ronald wore a dark suit and Reginald a light one. They have been remanded in custody for a week to give police time to make more arrests in connection with the case.




The Charts


© TDWRadio2019

Rock ‘n’ Roll Reminiscence Kit May 1958


Whole Lotta Woman – Marvin Rainwater
Teacher Teacher – Johnny Mathis
Swinging Sheperd Blues – Ted Heath Music
Breathless – Jerry Lee Lewis
What a Wonderful Time Up There – Pat Boone
Tequila – The Champs
To Be Loved – Jackie Wilson
Twilight Time – The Platters
Witch Doctor – Don Laing
Sugartime – Alma Cogan
Out of the Blue – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Maybe Baby – Buddy Holly
Lollipop – The Chordettes
The Army Game – Micheal Medwin/Alfie Bass
Tulips From Amsterdam – Max Bygraves
Kewpie Doll – Frankie Vaughan
Wear My Ring Around Your Neck – Elvis Presley
Who’s Sorry Now – Connie Francis
Magic Moments – Perry Como
Nairobi – Tommy Steele
Sweet Little Sixteen – Chuck Berry
Grand Coolie Dam – Lonnie Donegan
La Dee Dah – Jackie Dennis

All tracks available on Spotify


American Rock & Roll Star Jerry Lee Lewis has abandoned his UK tour after only three appearances and returned home. The 22 year old singer had run into trouble when it was revealed that he had married his 13 year old cousin Myra in December. Fans were not only outraged by his new wife age but also by the fact that Lewis hadn’t officially divorced his second wife before the ceremony. Crowds at Edmonton, Kilburn and Tooting gave the star a hostile reception before the Rank chain of theatres cancelled the rest of his UK dates. Earlier in the week the scandal had reached the House of Commons when Home Office minister, Iain Macleod, was called upon to answer questions from MPs.

Postmaster General Ernest Marples has announced that from December, Subscriber Trunk Dialling will be introduced in the Bristol area where 18,000 subscribers will be able to make trunk calls without the aid of the operator.
The General Post Office is to spend £35m modernising the phone system in an effort to popularise use of the telephone. At the moment there are on average less than two calls a day per telephone made in the UK – half the number of those made in the US. All calls will be charged automatically according to both time of call and distance. Prices will start at 2d and a three-minute call will cost 2s 6d, Callers in London will not benefit from the new system until 1961 because more complicated equipment will be needed in the larger cities.

Bolton Wanderers won the FA Cup for the fourth time in their history with a 2-0 win over Manchester United at Wembley Nat Lofthouse scored both Wanderers goals in front of a crowd of 90,000. Tennis and America’s Mervyn Rose beat Luis Ayala of Chile to win the French Open Title but there was disappointment for Britains Shirley Bloomer in the women single as she was beaten 6-4 1-6 6-2 by Hungarys Suzy Kormoczy. Ms Bloomer did fair better in the mixed doubles taking the title with her partner Nicola Pietrangeli




The Charts

© TDWRadio2019

Risky Business?

We recently visited Dementia Adventure who are a great organisation who arrange holidays for people living with dementia and their carers amongst other things. During our chat the thorny subject of risk assessment came up which was fairly inevitable I guess. Their response to it though was very refreshing.

Before entering into Dementia World as I call it I spent a career as an Environmental Health Officer (EHO). As I found out it was one of the lesser known local authority jobs which suffered from the public misconception that it was all about inspecting restaurants. I’ll save the full job description but part of it included enforcing the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. You can tell an EHO by the way, as they like me, will be very pedantic about including the etc in the title. As you can imagine many years of being greeted with “hello the health and safety police are here!” or “are you going to ban my kids playing conkers?” took their toll after a while. One thing I was increasingly aware of is that most people have very little idea about risk assessment. Used properly it can be quite liberating, used incorrectly (about 80% of the time although I may be biased) it can be totally restrictive.

When I first worked for a major dementia charity I’d been in the job a couple of weeks when one of our volunteers said to me, “I’m very worried that Mr X has a knife to peel his apple and Mr Y has two paracetomol in his glass case.” As it turned out Mr X was a 6’4″ ex boxer who had shared a great chat with me about being one of 14 children where he used the line ‘don’t know if I’d be here if they’d invented television earlier!’ and Mr Y seemed a perfectly nice man who like all of us might suffer from the occasional headache. The point is because both had mild dementia alarm bells had started to ring. There’s no doubt the volunteer concerned had the right intentions at heart but it did highlight to me that if we’d actually removed Mr X’s fruit knife and Mr Y’s paracetomol we would have taken away a lot of their self respect plus leaving them with an unpeeled apple and a headache! Unfortunately things at the charity didn’t improve as I was regularly faced with multiple page ‘risk assessments’ which attempted to cover the intricate details of people getting out of their chairs to play skittles while ignoring the totally inadequate fire escapes.

You cannot wrap people in cotton wool and there is an argument to say if someone is living with dementia even more reason to let them live a little which is why Dementia Adventures Top Ten Tips For Positive Risk Taking impressed me so much.

  1. Find out what people want – The ‘D’ word may have entered your life but thats no reason why you shouldn’t still have a choice and control over what happens. If you’re physically fit and you want to fly down a zip wire why not?
  2. Fear clouds our judgement – Whats the worst thing that can happen? How likey is it to occur? I once had a colleague who rated everything with the highest risk factor because the buildings they were inspecting could have burnt down.
  3. Improve the environment – that way you maximise the chance of success.
  4. No one size fits all – risk is a very personal thing. People who climb mountains for fun are likely to underestimate the risks they take, people who have never climbed mountains over estimate the risks involved.
  5. Success builds confidence – no further comment necessary.
  6. Confidence and trust are key – Very easy to lose if you try to be too restrictive.
  7. Be prepared – Risk assessments don’t always involve reams of paperwork some of the most effective can be dynamic.
  8. Safety in numbers – We’re all human whether we are living with dementia or not.
  9. Circle of support – Risk assessment shouldn’t be a lone task its vital to have someone to bounce ideas off.
  10. Allow room for ‘no activity’ – Being outdoors is great if you just want to sit and enjoy it thats fine.

Hopefully more people are looking at positive risk taking because lets face it if you took risk assessment to the nth degree your ultimate control measure would be not getting out of bed.

TDW Radio Rock ‘n’ Roll Reminiscence Kit June 1971

Playlist (All songs available on Spotify)

Heaven Must Have Sent You – The Elgins
I’m Gonna Run Away From You – Tammy Lynn
Mozart Symphony No 40 – Waldo De Los RiosTDW Radio
Indiana Wants Me – R Dean Taylor
My Brother Jake – Free
Brown Sugar – Rolling Stones
He’s Gonna Step On You Again – John Kongos
Malt & Barley Blues – McGuinness Flint
Lady Rose – Mungo Jerry
Don’t Let It Die – Hurricane Smith
When You Are A King – White Plains
Jig a Jig – East of Eden
CoCo – The Sweet
The Banner Man – Blue Mink
Knock Three Times – Dawn
I Did What I Did For Maria – Tony Christie
We Can Work It out – Stevie Wonder
It Don’t Come Easy – Ringo Starr








The Charts


Rock ’n’ Roll Reminiscence Kit September 1962

Below is our first reminiscence kit for September 1962. It contains a playlist of tracks from the month that can be found on Spotify, news stories and links to TV schedules, Adverts and the Charts at the time. Its all you need for an hours reminiscence exercise.


I’m Just Your Baby Louise Cordet
Things Bobby Darin
Guitar Tango The Shadows
It Might As Well Rain Until September Carole King
Telstar The Tornadoes
Theme From The Man With The golden Arm Jet Harris
Roses are Red Ronnie Carroll
Breaking Up Is Hard To do Neil Sedaka
Speedy Gonzales Pat Boone
Reminiscing Buddy Holly
Hit and Miss John Barry Seven
Come Outside Mike Sarne & Wendy Richard
Don’t Ever Change The Crickets
Saturday Jump Ted Heath
Little Miss Lonely Helen Shapiro
Once Upon a Dream Billy Fury
A Forever Kind of Love Bobby Vee
She’s Not You Elvis Presley
A Teenage Idol Rick Nelson
It’ll Be Me Cliff Richard & The Shadows
I Remember You Frank Ifield
Sealed With a Kiss Brian Hyland
Its Started All Over Again Brenda Lee
The Locomotion Little Eva

All the tracks are available on Spotify


The Soviet Union announced that it has signed an agreement on military and industrial assistance with Cuba, following an August meeting in Yalta between Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban Economics Minister Che Guevara.[6]the first consignment of Soviet R-12 (called SS-4 by NATO) offensive missiles has arrived in Cuba, on board the freighter Omsk.[22] The medium range ballistic missiles, could be fitted with nuclear warheads and could strike targets in the U.S. within 1,300 miles of Cuba.[2The Soviets have already warned the US that any attack on Cuba or on Soviet ships carrying supplies to the island would mean a state of war between the two nations.

Australias Rod Laver has become only the second player in history to win the “Grand Slam” of tennis, after taking the men’s singles title in the US Open, by defeating fellow Queenslander Roy Emerson, 6-2, 6-4, 5-7 6-4. Britains Graham Hill won The Italian Grand Prix in Monza America’s Richie Ginther was second and Bruce McLaren third.
Sonny Liston has made history by being the first man ever to knock out a reigning heavyweight champion in the first round, downing the titleholder Floyd Patterson in 2 minutes and 6 seconds of their World Heavyweight fight in Chicago

The Railway line between Tauton & Chard Junction has become the first to be closed under the recently announced Beeching cuts.
In a speech at Rice University in Houston President John F Kennedy has conformed it is Americas intention to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Back home BMC have unveiled plans for their new model the MGB which will go into production next year. While Ford has released its new family saloon into a market which already has plenty of competition from the Vauxhall Victor, Hillman Minx and Morris Oxford Farina.[2 The new Cortina will retail at £573





The Charts


© TDWRadio2019

First Night Nerves!

The first radio show is rapidly approaching and on Wednesday (17th) at 1pm I know I’ll have a complete mix of emotions. One, pride for actually turning an idea into something which seems to have caught peoples imagination, two, total trepidation in case the technology goes wrong or more likely I mess it up, three, apprehension that nobody will want to listen and four, just a touch of insecurity that I’m setting forward on a journey I don’t know whether I can complete. Apart from all that as Basil Fawlty once famously said ‘otherwise ok then’.

I know all the above are quite natural reactions to trying something new and believe me if one of the four above does take over I’m definitely not the type to let it make me throw the towell in. I hope the ‘D’ Word will be around for a while in all its forms. When I talk to carers who have been sent hurtling into dementia world with a few words and a book to read I always stress that one of the first things you will learn is we are all affected by human emotions but in the case of someone living with dementia multiply that feeling by between 50 and 100.

I can only imagine what thats like, on Wednesday I will make sure I’m sitting in the studio by 12:30 as being later than that is not an option. When I managed activity groups I quickly got the idea that my fear of being late was nothing at all. Dementia does play havoc with your time clock and on many occasions the conventional ways of reading time ie the clock don’t mean a lot. Other visual clues though can take over in this case it was the arrival of the community bus which to many of our group members signalled 3:30 and time to go home. That was until one day a new driver decided he’d arrive an hour early, park his bus on the drive and have a crafty nap. You can guess the predictable result as half the room got up started to put their coats on and head to the door. Needless to say a quiet word in the bus drivers ear ensured he parked up well out of sight in future.

So as I prepare to hit the airwaves for the first time on Wednesday I’m well prepared for a head full of emotions and I’m not vain enough to think I can change things overnight. I hope though in time people will take to the idea of having a small space on the radio where we can openly discuss dementia as a topic. I’m certainly not intending to shy away from any aspect, it is a horrible condition but that doesn’t mean that many people can’t still live happy lives for many years with it. The dream is to eventually take a back seat and let those people who know about it only too well take over. You can try walking a mile in someone elses shoes but in this case after a go at the marathon course I still don’t think you’ll fully understand whats going on.

Well I’d better return to the final preparations. The show is split into two parts the first hour is mainly chat with someone who is involved somewhere in dementia world, in the first four weeks we have:

April 17th: David from Care UK talking Dementia Friendly Communities

April 24th: Tess from Friends Forever talking about a successful social group in Harlow

May 1st: Jules from Dementia Adventure talking about dementia friendly holidays

May 8th: Adam from Hertswise talking about dementia services in the community

We also have Jeremy Hughes the Chief Executive of the Alzheimers Society lined up for later in May

In the second hour we have our Rock ‘n’ Roll reminiscence kit ‘Golden Years Radio’ where we transport ourselves to a month and a year somewhere between 1955 and 1975.

Live it all goes out at http://www.nobarriersradio.com or just search for nobarriersradio on the TuneIn app. Wednesday 1pm-3pm UK time

If you miss all of that and I’m fully aware 1pm-3pm isn’t the greatest time for a big audience the chats will be available on the podcast https://anchor.fm/tdwradio or you can find it on Spotify. We’re also making ‘Golden Years Radio’ available as a resource kit which will give you playlists and links to news adverts and more so you can turn it into your own reminiscence activity.

Thats it, wish me luck, and if you want to know more or get involved it would be great to hear from you.



Leaving Vera

There’s been plenty of research to suggest that music can play a big part in promoting happiness and wellbeing in people living with dementia. Hearing a familiar song can transport you back to that time and place that brings back happy memories. The ability of people who have become largely non verbal to remember song lyrics never ceases to amaze me.

What sometimes gets overlooked though is that the passage of time changes the type of music people living with dementia want to hear. Its very easy to go down the route that everyone in their 70’s and 80’s will be well versed in music hall favourites like “My Old Man” and “Any Old Iron” but if you stop to think a minute those songs were actually written and first performed before even people in their 90’s now were born. That doesn’t stop them being memorable and have their place but we shouldn’t take for granted thats all todays octagenerians want to listen to. I can remember being told by an 87 year old that she didn’t want all that music hall stuff, she wanted Elvis, Abba and Michael Buble! Its only when you’ve been in a room full of octogenarians singing “She Loves You’ by the Beatles you realise how powerful the right choice in music can be.

A quick calculation will show someone who was 15 in 1963 will be 71 now and have much more in common with the Beatles than Vera Lynn. With every year that passes that musical profile will move forward which means in just over a decade we’ll have 70 year olds who are far more aquainted with the Sex Pistols than Glen Miller. Looking seriously at music as an important aspect of the dementia journey still seems to be in its infancy in many respects. Silver Memories who provide music for care settings in Australia did comission some research from the Queensland University of Technology which produced some very encouraging results. It demonstrated that residents showed significant increases in morale, well being and quality of life related to listening to music they provided.

Like many things in life it’s a case of each to their own, for every person with dementia who loves Vera Lynn there will be another who would prefer the Rolling Stones. The key is of course not to think just because someone is 90 the only music they’ll want to hear is a medley of songs from World War 2. Thats not decrying the value of all music but it is saying its important to give people a choice. I’ll happily listen to Benny Goodman or Louis Jordan followed by the Beatles and Paloma Faith and I’m pretty certain I’m not alone in that. Someone said to me the other day “the problem is with music in many care settings too often people don’t realise we’ve left the Vera Lynn age.” A statement its hard to disagree with.