The beautiful game

By David Jolley

Wolverhampton Wanders beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 at Wembley Stadium this weekend. Sue and I had bravely listened to the game on our newly set up DAB radio. The radio is a gift, given to us a while ago but we had not investigated its powers until our old Roberts radio began to cough so much that it was a struggle to listen, especially when the volume was turned down low. The DAB requires time and patience in tuning, though Sue has now discovered how to set particular stations (a mystery still to me).

The combination of tuning and a famous and fabulous football match took me back to a Saturday afternoon in the 1950s when I was tuned to the Light Programme for the game between England and Scotland. In those days there were many fewer internationals and the competition between the Home Nations was all-important. Wolves (Wolverhampton Wanders as the commentators on this Saturday kept calling them) provided several players for England – always including Billy Wright as captain and Bert Williams as goalie. But the day belonged to Dennis Wilshaw, number 10 for Wolves and number 10 for England. He put the ball into the Scots’ net four times during the afternoon. Every goal gave be a surge of pleasure and pride of belonging and sharing in the success. I thought I might burst. Salvation was time in the small back garden with a ball after the final whistle.

There may be similar memories and experiences for the rugby tribe, but these are not know to me. Football memories have been found by others to be useful as reminiscence topics which will engage otherwise grumpy old men. http://www.footballmemories.org.uk/ I have seen several life-stories of former professional soccer players amongst the good work of residential homes. Such projects are great for the individual and for his family. They can also be used to link with shared memories of contemporaries who are now sharing difficulties and are in need of care. One of our firsts was a former Manchester City fullback. The club was interested and supportive. In recent years a number of clubs have recognised that former players have developed dementia and have reached out to their families and become a focus for support for people with dementia in the town. There are a number of examples of this: www.burnleyfccommunity.org/health/community-groups/dementia-cafe/ , https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2013/sep/10/football-unlock-dementia-patients-memories

There has been concern for some time that playing football might increase the likelihood of developing dementia. The focus has been on players who are known to be frequent headers of the ball. It may be that the heavier balls used in the 1950s and previous seasons were more dangerous than the more recent lightweight balls. Comparisons have been drawn with the dementia associated with boxing – Here it is the lighter weight boxers, who often have their heads knocked backwards by punches, who are most at risk of developing Alzheimer changes. The shearing rotation of the brain is believed to be the cause of the damage, rather than the weight of the blows. The situation is complicated. Professional footballers are exposed to repeat head injuries not linked to heading, and some experience repeated episodes of unconsciousness. There is interest in researching the issues in soccer and other contact sports such as rugby and American Football. https://www.england.nhs.uk/blog/does-playing-football-cause-dementia/

Now this has reminded me that we have promised to review the relationship between head trauma and the development of dementia for our next meeting of Dementia Conversations at Bowdon Vale.

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On the cards

By David Jolley

We like our daily paper to be on paper/newsprint. Some parts hardly get a glance, others take time and may need to be revisited. Special bits are clipped out and kept at least for a while. It is the rhythm that makes the receipt, the unfolding, and the visiting of each page so attractive.

Cards at Christmas have the same virtue of currency but potential permanence, clues from handwriting, a colourful stamp and the postmark. There is the added dimension that we will be the reporter and editor of a communication toward these friends and family near and far – near and far in time as well as geography.

We do have emails and electronic cards, and some of these bring welcome entertainment and warm messages, links that go on then for a while after silence of months. But the sending and receiving of cards in envelopes – some by post, others simply delivered round the corner, is a pleasure with history. We have a system for sending which shares responsibility between Sue and me. There are some exceptions to the main routine – special care here to try to avoid missing someone – or sending twice over. Messages may be short, but every one has thought behind it – and associated feeling. In doing this we have conversation across the dining room table that relegates radio and television to some other time. This is time together with people from our earliest days – family still who shared a childhood, a few who were at junior school, more from the teens and secondary school or other activities. Then there is the series of lives lived through work, the neighbourhood, children, more schools and church.

The list of contacts, ‘individuals of interest’, continues to grow though some are lost. Some who wrote last year are not with us for this. They are remembered.

Carols

By David Jolley

This has been a week of carols. On Tuesday Dementia Conversations celebrated a Christmas party at Bowdon Vale – in the Methodist chapel school room where we meet each month. We gave time to welcome a new patient/carer couple and to review the thoughts and experiences of others in these weeks. We find still that the process of assessment and diagnosis can take time, include frustrations and bewilderment, that arranging sensitive, flexible care at home is an art form which can be learned, that communication between carers and a person with dementia – both ways – is not easy, and that, when all else is exhausted, placement in a good care home is a blessing. There is an uncomfortable worry that this is happening too often via a crisis and necessitating use of the Mental Health Act. Shared festive food and continued discussion gave way to carols of our choosing and where we sat, to a guitar accompaniment.

Thursday afternoon at Bowdon Vale celebrated Christmas with the Pop In – which weekly offers time and space and modest refreshments to anyone who want to pop in, especially older people and others with vulnerabilities. This special week we began in the chapel itself, to sing six popular carols to an organ accompaniment. Most of those who came along do not worship regularly, but we made a fine noise and warmed in the arms of the chapel pews and the small space which has known all this for 130 years. Then there was time for food and fellowship in the school room.

Sunday found us singing Carols on the Park – about 300 people of all ages – but a heavy presence of juniors with mums, dads, grandparents and all. Just an hour – and giving thanks that the temperature was bearable, the wind calmed and the rain waiting until we had finished and most people had gone home. We heard the Christmas story through short readings. We reflected sadly on the extremes of poverty and homelessness. We sang carols led by a marvellous band and singers – but we all joined in with gusto. ‘Away in a Manger’ was led impromptu by small children who gathered around the microphone with natural confidence – and knowing all the words!

Not rocket science – But a sort of magic – A continuity across communities, across the generations and the years. A source of comfort and hope.

Accidental link

By David Jolley

It is down to Sue that we have discovered this link to our past: http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Chorlton/

Sue was looking for other things and came first across the link to the register of residents of the Chorlton on Medlock Union 1881 – a daunting list of inmates and staff. The base description of the history of the workhouse site and buildings is full and fascinating. Much of the content reminds me of a booklet which I used to look through at the library of Withington Hospital in the 1970s. The booklet was not available to buy at the time and I failed to get organised to copy it for personal study. With changes which took the University of South Manchester and the library to Wythenshawe, I lost track. The internet can be a friend to lost souls.

The Union became known locally as ‘Nell Lane’ – the name of the road where it stood. It grew to include an array of hospital wards which were visited by, and commended by Florence Nightingale as a model to be followed elsewhere.

During the 1960s plans were laid to extend the activities on the site so that it became Withington Hospital, the University Hospital of South Manchester. Chairs in General Medicine, Surgery were established and John Brocklehurst was appointed to the first Chair of Geriatric Medicine in England.

I came to the University Hospital of South Manchester in 1970 as a Senior House Officer to join the department of psychiatry which was awaiting completion of a building to hold be the base for a comprehensive mental health service which would serve the local population of South Manchester (200,000), take a lead in teaching undergraduates and postgraduates, and conducting clinical research.

So much has followed – so much from what was the local workhouse

Tangled web

By David Jolley

We are really pleased that Christians on Ageing has announced the launch of its revised website www.christiansonageing.org.uk. I hope people will take a look and begin to use the resource which Christians on Ageing surely is. I am glad to be associated with the organisation and to be part of its executive committee. The website provides a summary of its origins 35 years ago and some of its activity since and currently. With a main objective to support churches in the UK in improving their knowledge and understanding of older people, C on A has sought mainly to provide information and pointers to good practice. This is reflected in the website. I hope more interactive communication will be generated and more comments shared on the dilemmas of life for older people in the complex and demanding life of the 21st century.

C on A plans to hold a conference in Sheffield in the autumn of 2019. This will be the first such opportunity for people to come together for some time. I hope this will attract interest and generate involvement and that more people will be drawn to benefit from the excellent, inexpensive and enlightening publications which C on A has produced. There is a spiral of engagement between a website and the people it wishes to serve and engage. The challenge for C on A is to become better known and made use of by the many older people who give their lives to local churches, and many others who might begin to do so again, or for the first time, with sympathetic encouragement.

Other websites which I am associated with include http://dementiapathfinders.org/ which demonstrates the wide range of initiatives supported by Dementia Pathfinders although it has been in the field for very few years yet. I am glad that Dementia Conversations is featured. Our Bowdon Vale group has been meeting for well over two years now and we produce notes of every meeting. These can be shared with others if that would be of interest. In addition I produce this blog week by week. There are very few comments recorded, which leaves me to wonder how many people find time to read these musings. It is worthwhile for me – requiring a focus to put into print some of the vague wonderings which might otherwise fade and be lost before their time. Dementia Pathfinders uses Facebook and Twitter and these allow for more immediate comment and interaction.

The other world I inhabit is John Leigh Park and its Friends group: http://www.johnleighpark.org.uk/history-of-the-park.html. This engages me very day, with attention to the birds in the aviary, gardening, and constant vigilance to keep the council and Amey playing their part in maintenance and improvements. We don’t do litter picks – we pick up what small amounts of litter are dropped as soon as it appears. That way it does not breed.

There are events to organise, new ideas to explore, grants to be applied for, weekly notes to be written and distributed to our 250 members following weekly meetings, quarterly newsletters to be produced and distributed to over 2000 local households, annual inspections for Green Flag and North West in Bloom. All this is reflected by the website and nudges to the rest of the world are offered almost daily via Facebook and Twitter.

So there are differences between these websites – and a more systematic look at other websites would tell us more. For Christians on Ageing the relaunch of the website is a great achievement with considerable potential. It can be an important resource in a campaign for growth.