Golf and an Ageing Population – The Perfect Partnership

Bringing Communities Together Through Golf

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The story so far…..

The inspiration was borne out of the loss of my father, a keen golfer, to cancer six years ago and reaching a “crossroads” in my personal life.

I became increasingly concerned about how we were caring for our “golden generation” and decided to get involved and make a positive contribution to their lives through golf that has transformed my own life.

Following extensive research into the issues facing society and the golf industry, I decided to combine my passion for golf with my desire to improve the lives of families from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds.

Out of this “Golf In Society” was borne.

Its mission is to “bring communities together through golf” and show people that “life is better when you’re golfing”

Bringing the vision to life……….

I spent many weeks and months talking to stakeholders about why golf was in decline and why an increasing number of older people were struggling to find suitable care and support in their local communities.

Out of this a unique approach to introducing golf to an ageing population was developed. The aim was to create a service that was enjoyable, rewarding and stimulating for people discovering golf later in life.

By developing a unique combination of physical exercise, mental activity and social stimulation, delivered in beautiful natural surroundings seemed to be a “powerful potion”.

Using the existing infrastructure of golf clubs, most with spare capacity, appeared to be the perfect way to deliver the service with minimal investment and maximum reward.

Getting support for the vison…….

The next step was gaining support for my vision. Life for a social entrepreneur can be tough as you have to create and sell your vision whilst “holding onto the day job” that pays the bills. Staying strong, focused, positive when facing setbacks and apathy is extremely challenging.

It was now time to communicate the vision to potential stakeholders. I am eternally thankful to the following partners who have given me the chance to get this far…..

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Making a start and testing the vision…….

Whilst it was always clear to me that the service could benefit most elderly people, the interest shown by the Alzheimer’s Society in Lincoln inspired me focus on helping people with dementia. This devastating disease with no cure, can destroy whole families as they see their loved ones “disappear” in front of them. It’s truly heartbreaking to witness.

disease of the brain

It became clear that golf could help people living with dementia as it provided the exercise, mental activity and social stimulation they needed. The other huge (and often underestimated) benefit was the respite it would provide for carers. Caring for someone with dementia 24/7 takes its toll very quickly.

Considering Lincolnshire has one of the worst diagnosis rates of Dementia it seemed the perfect place to pilot the service.

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The idea was to pilot the scheme at one golf club, evaluate the outcomes, and then decide the best way to expand the service to help people with dementia across Lincolnshire, and beyond…..

 

Putting the vision into practice…..

Lincoln Golf Centre was selected as the venue for the pilot because the facilities, management team and members provided the perfect ingredients to test the service.

Very quicky the members embraced the idea of becoming a “Golfing Buddy”  – playing the game they love with someone less fortunate than themselves. They loved the idea of helping people in their local area. It was amazing how many members knew some with dementia in their social networks.

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The Alzheimer’s Society and Age Uk referred dementia clients to the service and it’s now making a positive contribution to their lives every week…..

The pilot has provided many valuable lessons, none greater than the power of compassion, respect, dignity, listening, friendship when helping people with dementia.

The outcomes have been wide-ranging and to many clients – priceless. Lincoln University have very kindly agreed to evaluate and document the positive impact the service is having on people’s lives. Their “Life Satisfaction” questionaire will provide the crucial evidence needed to get the service adopted throughout the UK.

What our customers have said so far……….

Hillary – Carer & Wife of Nick

“It was wonderful to meet you yesterday….you took my husband Nicholas on a round of golf at Thorpe on the Hill golf Club. He was thrilled and I’m printing off some of the pics to put in a memory book of recent events for him.

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Nicholas has remembered the event this morning and he’ll be keeping hold of the golf ball you gave him to help remind him of the day.

Hope to see you next week, Thurs at 10.30am.”     

Beth – Primary Care Navigator – Age UK

“Morning Anthony,

I have spoken to Diane and Michael and he said he really enjoyed the golf and is looking to forward to coming back. Michael is currently in respite care and will be hopefully back to the group next week.

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 I am going to speak to my colleagues and see if they are interested in popping along to see the golf group and find out more about what you do, and will be in touch shortly about that if that’s ok?  Thank you”

 What our partners have said so far…..

Louise- Peer Support Group Facilitator – Alzheimer’s Society

“WOW … what a fantastic outcome.  It was a privilege to be part of such a wonderful and fulfilling event, so thankyou for involving me in your project. If you could please email me the pictures and any feedback as soon as possible that would be very much appreciated as they are asking me already how the event was received, by the beneficiaries, and these would be really useful to include with my next report.

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 To see the look on Michaels face when he did play golf again, was an experience that will stay with me for a long time.  Not to mention George who came alone but said he had a great experience and couldn’t believe the welcome he has received, and of course Nick who couldn’t stop thanking his wife for bringing him.  I was genuinely touched by the whole experience”

 

Jamie – Disability officer – England Golf

“Hi Anthony

Thanks for the update and great to hear the impact the golf is having.

Via our National Lead for Sports Science whose wife works for the Alzheimer’s Society in Essex, he got in touch to see if there was anything we could do.

I have passed on your details to Valerie Mathewson and those of the guys at Lincoln Alzheimer’s Society as I think they would be keen to recreate something in Essex.

Valerie is also looking at some Dementia Friendly golf days as part of Dementia Awareness week next year.”

 Shona – County Development Officer (Lincolnshire) – England Golf

Hi Anthony,

Thank you so much for sharing the quotes and photos from your brilliant Golf day out. The scheme looks to have really taken off and I am delighted to read you have 20 volunteers.

I will discuss with Jamie Blair and my regional manager how we can help to take this forward. I have another club near Skegness who have already expressed a strong interest in getting involved. Please remember my offer of some financial support for the day to day costs of running the project, at the moment I have £100 but hopefully I can divert more if it’s needed. This money could for example help to pay for a society membership at the golf centre or some coaching sessions if appropriate.

And Yes! I believe Lincoln GC are the first Dementia Friendly club and I think we should really let everyone know about it.  I will send onto our National press officer to come up with a story to feed into the local press. It will of course be on our Lincolnshire County Golf webpage as well.

If I can, I will pop down either on the 10th Nov or next Thursday to catch up with you and discuss where we can help.

I am thrilled it’s going so well, well done to you for your vision and determination and of course the good people of Lincoln Golf Centre” 

Danny Walsh, Senior Lecturer (Mental Health Nursing) – University of Lincoln

“This is a marvellous initiative which is likely to make a significant and very positive impact upon the lives of those people living with dementia and their carers who take part in it. The university both supports and is proud to be a part of this venture.”                   

“The concept of the ‘Golf in Society – Golf days out’ is well thought out and makes complete good sense for people living with dementia and their carers. It will provide exercise, activity, socialisation and cognitive stimulation to those participating in the golfing and much need respite and a support group and social event for carers. There is a good research evidence base for interventions such as these significantly helping people maintain their capabilities and achieve satisfaction in the face of the dementia. People with dementia are often overlooked and written off but this venture will provide them with the opportunity to prove otherwise and have fun in the process. As a university we will be supporting this venture because we recognise its value for the participants but it also represents a marvellous opportunity for our nursing students to join in and gain a valuable insight into dementia and its impact but more importantly to realise the potential that people living with dementia still have. We will also be evaluating it and researching its impact for all involved in order to validate its significance and potential”

“Lincoln University will be evaluating this venture and the city should be proud that its happening here first. We will be undertaking research into its effectiveness from an academic and medical point of view, but I have seen the pleasure and the grins on the faces of the participants and that’s about as good an evaluation as you can get”

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The next stage of the journey…….

Now that it’s been proved that the service can deliver its objectives, it’s time to consider the best way to deliver it throughout Lincolnshire and beyond!!!!

Exciting times ahead on this inspiring and truly rewarding journey!!!!!

repayyou

Anthony Blackburn – Founder & Social Entrepreneur

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