Research Proves How Golf in Society is Transforming Lives

Since I started my social mission six years ago I’ve struggled to get Health & Social Care stakeholders on board. The biggest issue has been the lack of evidence on the impact Golf in Society has on people’s lives.

Last year I was lucky enough to be accepted onto Sheffield Hallam University’s Wellbeing Accelerator programme. It’s purpose was to support start-ups working in the healthy ageing space to scale. Each start-up received a package of support and access to an amazing group of mentors.

When asked “how can we best support you?” the answer was simple. I requested a research study into the impact our golf sessions were having on the lives of the families we were supporting.

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, I’m pleased to say that the Impact Study has now been published. The qualitative and quantitative data is compelling evidence of how we transform lives.

To have a leading sports research institute produce this report will prove to be a game-changer for Golf in Society. It’s provided us with the vital evidence and credibility we lacked to engage successfully with Health & Social Care stakeholders.

Here’s the infographics that highly the key findings from the research.

  1. Impact on Carers

2. Impact on participants according to carers

3. Impact on participants

This research has provided us with the “missing link” and will act as a springboard to get our pioneering social enterprise adopted more widely across the UK, taking us a step closer to making our social mission a reality.

Six years ago I sensed we could transform lives through golf, now we have the indisputable evidence to back up that gut-instinct.

Time to Relax for Unpaid Carers – part two

Following on from Linda’s blog about the first day of their recent “Time to Relax” leisure break, I’m delighted to share the second half of Linda’s story with you.

So Linda, it’s over to you to take us through day two..

Linda Barnes – Wife to Carer

I’m getting some breakfast juice. I return to the table to find Ken trying to eat the cornflakes I’d left in front of him with a knife and fork.

No one else around the table bats an eyelid. There is no embarrassment. It is simply a demonstration of where Ken is in his dementia journey. I gently swap the cutlery for a spoon, and am given a smile by a fellow carer, no words are needed.

Ken woke this morning in a four poster bed of giant proportions. In fact the room and everything in it makes me feel small. It’s impressive and fabulous but not perhaps dementia friendly, it is designed for a far grander purpose.

There’s a huge gilt freestanding mirror. Perfect for a bride to admire her trousseau, but to Ken it has a menacing edge. He catches a glimpse and thinks there is some else in the room. I demonstrate my comedic skills and dance in front of the reflection, a reassurance there is no one but us.

The bath is an incredible feature, the stuff of posh magazines and footballer’s houses. I joke even if we could get in, we’d never get out. But it is the shower screen that is our biggest obstacle, a plain sheet of glass, very discreet and modern, but Ken can’t judge where it is and is frightened by it.

Dementia brains are different, spatial awareness can be compromised. What is obvious to us isn’t to Ken. It is the only negative I can suggest in our whole two days. I think perhaps the bridal suite would be better suited to a higher functioning couple than we are.

It’s raining, so plan B is put into operation. The boys go tenpin bowling. I’ve a little apprehension re the bowling shoes, but Covid measures mean changing footwear isn’t required. The boys have a fantastic morning.

Meanwhile we ladies take on the tasks of self care and preservation. We have a ‘wellness session’ which reveals deeply hidden emotion. I have a neck and shoulder massage. It is a mixture of pleasure and pain, as my lovely therapist tries to undo the knots in my muscles. I feel inches taller when it’s over.

We paint pictures with non dominant hands and are encouraged to make mess, it’s all about finding the child within us.

More food, delicious soup and sandwiches. Then more cake.

Our afternoon session is a lesson in meditation, all about the breath, all too soon it’s time to go.

The lads are having a sports quiz, prizes are awarded for the bowling, everyone is smiling, that positive buzz hasn’t faded.

A closure speech.

There’s thank you’s all round.

I don’t think the organisers can truly appreciate what they have given their guests.

We have felt nurtured, respected, understood.

Everyone has benefited from the experience and will hopefully carry its effect with them when returning to the everyday.

A social entrepreneurial experiment that has been a massive success. We have shown people living with dementia can still have a fantastic time if the venue and people are sensitive to needs.

It reflects on society as a whole, if more people understand dementia then we are all the richer. The support staff undoubtedly had as good time as we did. It just takes understanding, and a bit of a gamble, I’m so glad they took a chance on us .

For the first time for a very long time we felt like any ‘normal’ couple.

I wish the project every success, and hope it will go from strength to strength so that more couples get the chance to experience the positivity

An opportunity to make a difference?

This certainly was.

Thank you so much.

Wow, what can I say. Linda’s insight, as well as the feedback from her fellow wives and carers is priceless to me. Without it, how on earth could we design services that create opportunities to be “normal”.

Here’s the link to Linda’s blog page

Time to Relax for Unpaid Carers

We’re always seeking new ways to help the families we support enjoy a happier, healthier life. This week we tested out a two-day leisure break with eight families, all living with a diagnosis of dementia or Parkinson’s disease. I’m sure you can imagine the potential challenges and risks we faced. However, we were determined to create an event that gave carers Time to Relax and their partners the opportunity to enjoy their favourite sports.

Rather than tell you how things went on day one, I’m going to leave it to Linda and her thoughts as a wife and carer. Over to you Linda.

Alfreton Hall

Gosh what a day!

My concerns re motorway driving don’t come into fruition and I arrive at our venue right on time.

There are high ceilings in this grandiose reception room and three distinct groups, we sit with our fellow Yorkshire contingents.

Our host is smiling broadly and welcomes everyone with the same friendly charm, it is obvious the delight that his dream of a dementia friendly break for Carers and their charges has finally become a reality.

I can only imagine the work behind the scenes, our invitation to join was readily accepted. It’s an opportunity for a night away with Ken in a controlled and caring environment that doesn’t come very often, in fact has never happened before.

It’s clear from the start that this is a bit of an experiment, no one really knows how it will go, but the positive vibe is palpable, everyone here wants to make it work.

I suppose we are guinea pigs, invited to test out the facilities and itinerary, we are to be asked to give our honest and critical feedback as well as positives and highlights at the end of our two day experience.

Ken’s golfing group is at our nucleus, and the two similar groups running in Lincoln and Nottinghamshire have united for this special introductory event. It is in in collaboration with Alfreton Hall, the venue for this brave initiative.

On this occasion the Carer’s are all ladies, their Cared -for all men. Ken recognises some faces and is very quickly at his ease.

We have and introductory chat then are divided, two different itineraries, carefully considered. The men go in a mini bus to the local golf course, they are in experienced and familiar hands. There is no hesitation from Ken, being with the lads is what he enjoys most.

We Ladies are left to chat. We all explain a little about our lives. Many of the threads are similar and we bond easily. It is a strange phenomenon but true, that although we have only just met we share a common story and the understanding is both empathic and mutual.

Time flies. By the time we have a lunch it feels we can talk honestly and openly about issues only we with experience can possibly relate to, it is a cathartic and healing environment. It feels like a big safety blanket has swept us all up.

All of us feel the weight of responsibility lifting from our shoulders. We’re not clock watching, we have trusted our ‘others’ into capable hands. Words like ‘freedom and time’ feature in the vocabulary.

Just being ‘like ladies who lunch’ for once, eating delicious sandwiches and glorious cake, feeling special and blessed.

It feels a bit serial, seated in the white room, decorated with its ornate plasterwork and gilt. A beautiful place usually exclusively used for marriage ceremonies, and rather grander affairs than our own. But we welcomed, our gentle and kind facilitator listens, the surroundings feel like a lovely dream where dementia doesn’t exist. It’s a huge treat for all of us.

After lunch we have a ‘sit down yoga’ session over zoom. The teacher is experienced and I feel my self drifting to the rhythm of my breath. It’s also more strenuous than I expected. I know well the importance of body and mind in fusion, so why is it then I don’t always care for myself as well as I should?

I resolve to make a more concerted effort in future. Even I can forfeit ten minutes a day to my well being.

The ladies take a stroll around the adjacent parkland, with no one in charge we go slightly off track. We arrive back at the hall slightly late to find the men happy to see us after their busy day of walking and golf.

By now the segregation groups of the morning have merged into a harmonious society of friends, Ken can’t recall what he has done but is smiling broadly. ‘It’s been a good laugh’ he can tell me and that’s really all that matters.

The biggest shock of the day and one which causes much hilarity is that Ken and I have been allocated ‘The Bridal Suite’ the largest and grandest of the eight bedrooms. It is huge with four poster bed, enormous mirrors and a large chandelier. The bathroom has a freestanding bath and dual shower. It is literally like the ‘throne’ room with two crystal appendages hanging from its high ceiling with deep carved cornice. We have views of the gardens and fountains To say it is palatial is an understatement. I’m smiling as I write. Ken is dressed and gently snoring beside me laid on top of the bed, probably not most the romantic!

Dinner tonight is a combined affair. The dining room is beautiful I’ve even chance to wear a dress and some heels.

There is an entertaining pre dinner talk about a life in football by an ex professional and his association with Brian Clough. Just at the right pitch, it sets the tone for the rest of the evening.

We are called for dinner and the three course meal is served around large round tables of grand proportions. This is after all a wedding and conference venue. I imagine sadly Covid will have had a serious consequence to it’s business over the last eighteen months.

Everyone has made the same sort of effort the ladies look lovely and it’s rather nice to see the men out of golfing gear. It feels like a proper night out.

The food is fabulous and the quantity and quality has all the guests approval. The service and situation reminds me of dinner on a cruise ship where strangers share experiences and become holiday friends.

Certainly our table is full of chat, the conversation light and companionable. I learn things, Ken contributes where he can, and tonight he exceeds my expectations managing his food, I discreetly assist where necessary, but it really doesn’t matter this is a safe place.

It feels incredibly normal, Dementia has been banished to the background. Talk isn’t about what we can’t do it’s about being proud of the things we have been lucky enough to do. There is a relaxed and positive mood about this dinner, and a genuine understanding.

I approached this night away with some in trepidation that was totally unfounded we have all been supported beyond my expectations.

Everyone retires early, Ken is immediately asleep. I lie in the four poster princess bed and reflect on the day.

It seems to me that being apart for a change doing different things has brought Ken and I closer together. He particularly has loved being ‘one of the boy’s’ saturated in male humour and camaraderie. I have loved all the ‘girl stuff’ but most of all fluent conversations.

If today is a blueprint for the future then I find it hard to find fault.

Best still we still have another day!

10/10 so far.

Linda’s review of day two will follow shortly !

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