How day trips and dancing down memory lane helps people with dementia

A grandfather living with dementia says days out with his support group are helping him make new memories.

When Harry Ainscough was first diagnosed with vascular dementia, he did not want to leave the house.

Harry's confidence began to grow after he and his wife Ellen started attending the Forgotten Regulars Group, a social group for people with dementia and their carers held at the Union Arms Pub in Tyldesley, in Wigan.

When Harry Ainscough was first diagnosed with dementia he didn't want to leave the house Credit: ITV Granada Reports

Each month, up to 100 people visit the pub for a free lunch, live music and dancing. And it's got so popular they now run day trips for the group.

The most recent was to Blackpool Tower Ballroom where Harry and Ellen were one of the first on the dance floor.

For Harry it is all about making the most of every day.

Harry said: "My long term memory is fine but my short term memory is terrible and if I don't keep doing things and doing different things, I won't have any memories that are worth remembering."

Denise and Larry Stones. Denise has dementia and can no longer speak and needs to use a wheelchair Credit: ITV Granada Reports

ITV Granada Reports first met Larry and Denise Stones in May covering the Forgotten Regulars and their pub socials.

Denise has dementia and can no longer speak.

The couple have always been keen dancers but Denise's condition is deteriorating and she now needs a wheelchair.

Larry had thought the day out might be too much for her but the group managed to change his mind

Larry said: "I didn't want to come because I thought Denise wouldn't be able to manage it but  they got me a wheelchair so it enables us to come because now she can't walk very far.

"No other trip would excite me more than coming here to the tower ballroom ...I don't know what 's going to happen in the future but at least we can say we've been."

And, incredibly, after hearing the music, Denise got up from her wheelchair for one more dance.

There are 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK and that is predicted to nearly double by 2040.

Research has shown how music can help people living with dementia. Certain music, can help to reignite past memories, while further investigation is being done into how making music can keep the minds of people living with dementia in the present.

Social ballroom dancing can also improve cognitive functions and reduce brain atrophy in older adults who are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Loneliness has also been found to increase the risk of developing dementia by as much as 20%.

It is thought loneliness has an influence similar to other more well-established dementia risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, physical inactivity and hearing loss.

The Forgotten Regulars on a day trip to Blackpool Tower Ballroom Credit: ITV Granada

So the social aspect of these days out are hugely important to everyone.

All the group's lives have been touched by dementia and some have bonded through their loss of a loved one.

Anne Tunnicliffe's husband died from Alzheimers.

Anne said: "If you've not walked in our shoes, you don't know what it is like.

"Guilt is the biggest thing. I waited and waited until my husband went into a home until I literally felt like I couldn't do it anymore.

"By the time he went in he was doubly incontinent, couldn't feed or anything but I felt so guilty and that doesn't go away."

Anne, far right, started attending the Forgotten Regulars support group with her late husband Credit: ITV Granada

It is the first time Vince Mather has been back to the ballroom since his wife Mary died from dementia.

They came here on their honeymoon in the 50s and returned many times. The last time was with the Forgotten Regulars when Mary was in a wheelchair.

Vince said: "Mary loved dancing. She was the one who remembered the steps and I followed.

"Believe me she carried me through 67 years together. This brings back memories - she is here with me."

Sharon Mattin, who runs the Union Arms Pub in Tyldesley in Wigan, launched the Forgotten Regulars Dementia Group eight years ago after witnessing her mother struggle with social isolation.

She arranges the group's day trips funded by donations.

Sharon said: "If you see the smiles on their faces - this is why it is important. To get people to do things they can't normally do.

"It's only a few hours out but it just makes a huge difference to each and everyone of them."

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