Michael Hancock, 71, has been living with dementia for the last 14 years and is also receiving treatment for Crohn’s disease. He and his wife Lynn, who is also his carer, joined a local walking group after he was discharged from hospital six years ago. Here, they tell us more about their experiences with walking.
“Walking has been a real life-changer for me. My dementia is slightly different in that it’s more about movement. I needed to remind my body how to do exercise again. When I came out of hospital, I received support from LinkAge Network who recommended that I join a local walking group in Hengrove. I started going every Tuesday afternoon. At first I was a bit nervous about it, but once I started I really enjoyed it and I haven’t looked back since.
“It’s a really mixed group, I’m 71 but there are people of all ages – the oldest chap in the group is 91, so it just goes to show you can do it at any stage in your life!
“When I walk, I always feel so much better for having done it – the fresh air does me good. It’s also really good for my memory. I sometimes have a job to remember people’s names, but I’ve met so many people doing this (there are about 35 people in our group), so the more people I see, the more I get to practice keeping names in my head. It’s a really nice and sociable activity”.
“Mike used to love rally driving when he was younger, and when his illnesses meant that he could no longer drive, that was a real blow for him. Since joining the walking group though, he’s got a new lease of life. It’s opened up new horizons for him and given him so much confidence. At first, he was worried about perhaps tripping or falling, and of course I was worried for him too, but the more he’s done it, the stronger he has become. His health has improved no end.
“When you are unwell, it’s easy to see how life could close in on you, so you’ve to get out there and meet people, and keep doing new things. Doing this has improved things for both of us no end. We do a lot of walks just the two of us now as well, and sometimes our 11-year-old grandson joins us, too. It’s awakened an interest in being out and about, and it’s something we can share, which is lovely.
“If anyone is reading this thinking ‘I want to do it but I’m not sure’, I would say get out there and give it a go. Whether you’re the one with the health issues or you’re caring for someone who is, you obviously worry for them and they worry for themselves, but once you start it’s a really amazing experience. People are so friendly and encouraging, and even if you can’t walk far to start with, every little helps.”
Bristol Walk Fest, the UK’s largest celebration of urban walking, takes place from 1 – 31 May 2018. See what’s happening and when on our events calendar page.