Our service today was led by Reverend Ian Rutherford.

He leads the activities of Methodist Central Hall in Manchester, following in the footsteps of Samuel Collier who pioneered its work amongst the poor of the city under a slogan of ’Need not Creed’

Fewer people now live in that part of the city and the Central hall had lost some of its focus. Ian and his team have brought new light and riven improved understanding and care programmes in association with the City Council, businesses, educational centres, voluntary organisations and other faith organisations, Christian and others. Their highest profile work is with the homeless and with asylum seekers, but a range of other needs benefit from their accommodation and practical and spiritual support. We heard that twelve different ‘congregations’, summing to over 1800 people will use the rooms of Central Hall every Sunday.

The stories and the means are of interest to those of us wanting to make a difference: to rescue older people, people and families with dementia and other disadvantaged groups from the anomie of feeling alone and powerless, and to align our society’s actions and use of resources with the needs of the people.

In threes:

Encounter people where they are. Encourage them to dare to share their understandings, fears and frustration and ideas of what could be done. Engage people of like persuasion to join you and work together.

Qualities required to make it work: zeal, striving and passion.

Blessed are they who have discomfort. Blessed are they who have anger. Blessed have they who have tears.

Pathfinders? For sure.

Design for life

By David Jolley

Sue bought the Saturday ‘I’ to read on the train back from Huntingdon. There was much of interest beyond the bewildering updates on government of our country.

The Chief Medical Officer is encouraging us to ‘work out until you are tired out to stay healthy’. The advice comes from a report which confirms that using your muscles regularly protects them against atrophy and can even build up strength as we get older. Not only muscle strength is improved, but balance, confidence and cognition. It is particularly pleasing to see dancing and bowling mentioned as suitable and worthwhile activities, rather than devotion to the weights and other machines of the gymnasium. All sorts of everyday necessities, carrying shopping or babies, walking to the shop, count toward muscle (and brain) exercise. I might disagree on the emphasis of working until you are tired, or ‘heavy’ gardening, rather than gardening in all its forms and attractions – little and fairly often can be as good as big – no need to be wearied.

Then there was a two page spread about design for life with dementia, featuring the work of Professor Eef Hogervorst (not Hogwarts, but near!), Professor of Biological Psychology at Loughborough. Perhaps following in the steps of Mary Marshall, she draws attention to the impact of space upon quality of life and ability cope when disabilities, including cognitive decline, come to us. Our houses and flats often include hazards and inconveniences which we hardly notice when fully fit – but which amplify difficulties when we are a little less perfect. It is not easy to adapt to new accommodation when we already have impairments, particularly those associated with dementia. Professor Hogervorst is recommending that new homes, even those for first time buyers, be designed with the possibility of dementia in mind. The result is a single storey building with lots of empty space and no room for clutter! Upstairs and downstairs has attractions for most of us and makes good use of the world’s surface area. Clutter for some of us is the ultimate in personalisation of the environment – and this chair here, that book shelf there are markers of where I am and other things are usually to be found. So I think we might set that aside for a while.

Cannabis for dementia?

By David Jolley

I spend quite a lot of time encouraging people to be aware of approaches which help people with dementia and their carers.

These do not include miracle cures which are promised week by week in newspapers and other media hypes. Generally I am successful without too much expenditure of time and emotions. I recognise that people will always be interested in research, new avenues and possibilities – so am I – but we have to be cautious and rational.

This week I have found myself struggling in the grip of an enthusiast’s belief in the prospect that cannabis, in one of its forms will be the answer.

A recent Horizon ‘documentary’ was the trigger:

This might be good television – though I found it rather long-winded, even tedious. The evidence foe the effectiveness of cannabis CBD or THC in chronic pain, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis seems to have a base. It is certainly interesting to learn that 40,000 people in Israel receive prescriptions for these conditions.

It is also important to be aware of the high incidence of psychosis amongst users of stronger forms of cannabis with high THC content

Searching through relevant links:

Cochrane Review:

Cannabis Gets the Green Light for Dementia Patients

What’s good for a park

By David Jolley

What’s good for a park – Lessons in transfer.

At the last meeting with Friends of parks Groups we were challenged to offer a suggestion which would help other Friends Groups to make progress. There is the offer of a prize for the most promising suggestion: Our Friends have mulled over this repeatedly since & here’s our thoughts.

We would say that one initiative by itself is unlikely to have an impact, but there needs to be a comprehensive approach.

These are key elements which we recognise in what we do, and which we believe have a general applicability.

Partnership working.

We hold weekly meetings of the core committee group.

As we have a daily presence in the park – attending to the aviary and birds daily, collecting litter or dog poo before it accumulates, we identify problems and bring these to the attention of the relevant Council Officer or Authority. We meet people using the park and are always prepared to listen. Actions from our daily activities are then discussed and tracked at our weekly meetings.

Other weekly agenda items include discussions and agreement about what can be done to maintain and improve the park facilities and activities and approaches to raising funds through grants, donations, car boot sales and eBay to allow us to carry out our projects.

These meetings also provide a forum to track our annual events calendar and look for new ways to welcome visitors to the park. This year we trialled a new event, a Teddy Bear’s picnic for the very smallest park visitors. These events are a valuable source of fundraising as well as an opportunity to increase our membership.

Following our weekly meetings, we schedule monthly walkabouts with senior offices of Trafford MBC and Amey.  This gives us the opportunity to agree actions and discuss issues raised by park users or identified at the weekly meetings. We believe this fosters good relations and mutual respect with the Trafford and Amey staff who come to work on the park and with their line managers.

Occasionally we have involvement with local councillors and sometimes our MP.

These approaches are used to help us resolve issues and to keep them up to date with our work and activities.

We have involvement with other voluntary activity groups and charities:
Duke of Edinburgh and National Citizenship Service participants are given the opportunity for young residents to gain valuable skills and learn more about our park as well as providing valuable help with some of our projects.

At some of our events we are able to make donations toward other charitable groups (Barnabus, Boaz, and Marie Curie) We also hold weekly health walks and organise social bowling to encourage fitness and use of our park facilities. These can also help with social isolation for our local residents.

Local town centre businesses support our activities. Sometimes this is free help and advice or by helping promote our events by putting up posters and distributing flyers.
We are actively involved with the regular meetings of Friends Groups with Trafford MBC and Amey We participate fully in Friends of parks meetings and visit other parks and their Friends groups – to learn from them and improve the way that we work. We are also active in NW in Bloom and the Green Flag Scheme.


We use a variety of communication methods with our members, residents and community in our local area as we recognise that everyone is different in how they like to receive news of our activities and updates as to what’s happening on the park.

We circulate weekly communication with all members by email or hand-delivery of news and deliberations of the core group.

We have a website which is kept up to date.

We are active across social media with use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We put together a quarterly newsletter: a printed version, which is delivered to 2000+ local homes and which is displayed on the four noticeboards in the park and is available via the website.

We use posters and flyers to advertise our events, delivered to local businesses and put up around the park.

We have visibility in the town centre to remind residents of our park. We are involved in the North Altrincham in Bloom, with a planter outside Altrincham Hospital and we now look after the Manchester Road corner, a prominent gateway to the town centre. There is probably more, but this goes quite a way.

Can we ask other Friends Groups individually for their observations and suggestions – to be shared across all groups? Maybe the prize can be shared between all who offer a serious attempt to answer your challenge.

This feels like a useful blueprint for any community service – Dementia – Older People – Whatever – getting close to the people and the ground – doing it gently but with determination and persistence. Even red tape can melt.

Down our street

By David Jolley

The chapel at Bowdon Vale is set in a street of terrace houses which date, like the chapel, from the late 1800s. These were originally homes for gardeners and domestic servants and, famously, washer women, who supported the rich families who lived in the mansions up the hill at Bowdon. The Vale was otherwise known as ‘Soapy Town’. In these days the houses have become highly desirable homes for families in this attractive part of Greater Manchester, with access to good shops, schools and the countryside.

We have been pleased to use the schoolroom of the chapel for our Dementia Conversations these past three years. This week we celebrated August and seaside holidays – we have established a tradition of bringing sand and buckets, spades, windmills, cricket sets, a fishing net and other accoutrements which you need on any beach afternoon. We also have ice cream, supplied by Jon who is the ice cream man at John Leigh Park. He makes a special trip to Priory Street for us. This year we set upon the idea of inviting anyone in the street to join us for a free ice cream – notices made and posted. We shuffled out to queue in the sunshine – which there was between showers – at the appointed hour. There was not a rush from every house, but first E and then Z came cheerfully along, beaming and open to immediate friendship. Two teenagers slowed their bikes, hesitated, and opted for ninety-niners.

E and Z chose to stay with us for the afternoon. There were stories as at every such session. E told of her mother’s last years with dementia. There were more refreshments, including a cake decorated with an ice cream cornet. Conversations flowed easily – intense in small groups. We reviewed some recent advances and news and said again how music has become confirmed as effective therapy – at least as good as Librium in settling agitation- not only amongst people troubled in dementia, but in all sorts of other conditions.

Pete had brought his guitar and some song sheets and we sang – pretty well.

Oh! The Blackpool Belle was a get-away train that went from Northern Station …

I remember – very well ……..

I do like to be beside the seaside …….

Didn’t we have a lovely time?

The day we went to Bangor …

Love letters in the sand …..

We’ll meet beyond the shore

We’ll kiss just as before ….

There were smiles and tears. Summer holidays are deep inside us and there to bring back the memories with just such a little encouragement.

It was a good afternoon for the little chapel and its relationship to the street.

The public face of dementia

By David Jolley

We survived and enjoyed our stint with NCS (National Citizenship Service) (Team 3 of the Salford Blue Wave) on the park last week, encouraging them to help us say and show what parks are doing for all sorts of people, including people with dementia. This week I was invited to talk with teams 9 and 12 of the Pink Wave, both of which had decided to focus on dementia as a major issue in community matters. Perhaps the major issue in all communities.

One team had already done quite a bit of research and were impressed by the movement to help people with dementia through organised stimulation of the senses – aware and impressed by the potential of music and arts, but also of the basics of sensory experiences. They have begun to accumulate resources to provide a sensory stimulation pack.

The other team was perhaps less sure of what they might do – but raising funds for a dementia charity was in mind.

Diane who has set up a weekly ‘Musical Drop In’ at Timperley spoke first. This is based in a small corner of the Methodist Church which is equipped to make posh coffees. The idea of adding music to the first version of the drop in came from one man with his guitar. Others have joined in so that there is a variety of music – from some carers and some individuals with dementia.

The students asked how they should best relate to an individual they are introduced to and is known to carry a diagnosis of dementia. We talked that through with some off-the-cuff role play ‘Take Care Son’ from Tony Husband and left a copy with them. It was not difficult to rehearse why it is so right for them to have chosen dementia as their focus issue. Barbara Windsor had been talking to the new Prime Minister

And almost every newspaper carried commentary on Dementia as the biggest cause of death in the UK

There is plenty of information, plenty of understanding and it is so rewarding to listen to people like Diane and to see the commitment of these young people. Saturday carried a warning note for us to steer away from the adoption of war metaphors from ‘successful’ campaigns seeking money for cancer care and research. These may bring in the money – but they affect people with cancer and their families adversely

Lessons to be learned.

Walking is good for you

By David Jolley

Walking is good for you – Bowling has virtue too ‘It’s a superpower’: how walking makes us healthier, happier and brainier – This was the lead sent by email to me by an enthusiastic colleague – drawing attention to an article in the Guardian. It extolls and explains the way that regular walks stimulate all aspects of brain and mind activity: cognition, emotion, creativity, joy.

Shane O’Mara is Professor of Experimental Neuroscience at Trinity College Dublin. He clearly enjoys walking, but he is also well placed and well qualified to explore the mechanisms by which it produces these benefits. ‘This brain was made for walking’.

It is understood that these benefits are available to people who are well, but they are also helpful and promote healing in the face of brain injury. We would not believe that walking can reverse dementia, but it can improve performance and quality of life. Walking with others has the added benefits which come from social interactions. It is not necessary to be walking very fast, to raise the pulse rate, it is all about the routine of comfortable walking. This past week we have hosted a project with Team 3 of the Blue Wave of National Citizenship Students organised from Salford. The project has been sited in John Leigh Park: and designed to encourage the students to help improve some aspects of the park environment with us, and to appreciate the potential of this and other parks to add to the health and well-being of park users.

We were particularly keen to offer an introduction to Crown Green Bowling to these 12 young people. To learn a bit about it, to practice the elements, and to organise a competition. Most had not played bowls before, though most recognised it and some had family members who bowl or used to bowl. They found it was more difficult than might appear at first sight, but they got the knack quite quickly and some were pretty good by the end of the week – A silver cup was presented to the winning team, a Twiddle Muff to winners of the other play off. All this attracted interest and comment: a passing Health Walk stopped to give congratulations. A member of the local Chinese community was most taken with what he saw and is planning to bring other members of his association to our regular social bowling sessions – with refreshments!

Walking has taken off – its attractions and virtues are widely understood. Our local CCG has asked all General Practices to set up or provide links to walking groups and to make direct invitations to patients who are likely to benefit. There are now about ten Walking For Health groups in Trafford.

The same is not the case for bowling – here there are stories of greens being lost and existing clubs struggling for members:

But bowling has obvious potential for improving and maintaining health for people of all ages – perhaps most especially older people and those with pathology limiting what they might do. In bowling we walk, we talk, there is a requirement for balance and for hand-eye coordination – All much in keeping with the mechanisms identified by Professor O’Mara as operative in walking. Bowls might be styled: ‘Walking Plus’.

There are some articles drawing attention to the health benefits of bowling:

We would like to think more people can begin to learn the attractions of this lovely game – and the potential for improving their cognition, well-being and joy. Our NCS students have taken us a few steps further in this ambition.