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  • 11th June 2018 | By David Jolley

    June has come to mean Big Lunch in the life of John Leigh Park – we began the habit in 2014 as we started a more active group again in response to Trafford’s decision to close the aviary because of austerity funding cuts. That first Lunch launched a Friends group which now has over 230 members.

    Last year was the centenary of the park, which we celebrated with a march and other re-livings of activities which occurred when the land was first made available to the people of Altrincham. Our visitors last year included two grandchildren of Sir John Leigh. This year was 101 – a more modest but wonderfully successful day. This is the tenth year that the Eden Project has supported Big Lunch. Its ambition is to encourage people to make time and find a space just to be together, with food, to appreciate each other and their local community. It works so well – people of all ages and backgrounds having fun in an old fashioned way. Our event was scheduled 11am – 4pm but some stayed on until 9pm. It confirms a solid base which is as old as history, and we must keep doing it.

    The very next day we were visited by assessors of the Green Flag Scheme – national standards for parks and green spaces. Setting standards and receiving visitors who have depth of knowledge and enthusiasm for what parks are about and their potential, is a brilliant model – transferable, of course and transferred, to other settings including services of all sorts.

    Austerity has weakened us in many ways and I am keen to see the damage it has done reversed by a return to more responsible and equitable funding and use of wealth. But necessity has encouraged different developments and the growth and flourishing of Friends of Parks is one good example – working as complements to what is done by councils – and sometimes private sector agencies which have taken on major responsibilities for services. The essence of Friends is that they are local – they have sound roots and care. I hope we can use this model and the learning which comes from it, to strengthen and enrich services for older people, including those with dementia and other mental health problems.

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    29th May 2018 | By David Jolley

    This weekend has been made special by a visit from our daughter and son in law with their young son, our grandson. His presence and play amongst our household furnishing, around the garden and into the park, have brought joy and new life and memories to familiar places.

    A member of our Dementia Conversations group brought to my attention a recent programme from the BBC which had reported on activities at a Walthamstow care home. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/stories-43006631/theHell-children-keeping-their-local-care-home-young-and-fun

    The essence being that the Home opens its doors to everyone in the family and so becomes like an extension of the family home – multiple families finding togetherness under a safe roof. What a contrast with the image of Homes as a place where older people are locked away – out of sight and missing all the warmth and give and take which happens in families.

    This same weekend we were hearing of a family fretting because their tiny grandchild, born early and living in another country, is in hospital where even his parents have been severely rationed in how much time they can spend with him.

    The insights and lessons from the work of Bowlby and others are taken for granted here when thinking of children. Those observations are relevant in all places and for all generations. It may not be rocket science but it works

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    21st May 2018 | By David Jolley

    I have read again the inspirational articles from Jill Manthorpe and Steve Iliffe in the Journal of Dementia Care. They provide an illuminating review and analysis of the literature on dementia and our current situation. From this they call for a revision of policy priorities - from throwing money and resource on research for a cure, toward a focus on healthy life styles which reduce incidence, and informed and sustained care, including palliative care.

    Within their review they draw comparisons with approaches and attitudes to cancer, including the use of metaphors of heroics, conflict and military triumphs. These they see as possibly appropriate in the case of cancer – perhaps underpinning the success of fund-raising schemes – but not right for dementia. So it was interesting this week to find a headline questioning the good and pointing to the adverse effects of the war metaphors in cancer care: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/may/15/pressure-to-stay-positive-may-be-a-negative-for-cancer-patients-charity

    One aspect of the fighting and war model is that individuals with the disease feel pressured to fight and to become survivors. The reality is that many will succumb – so is this a condemnation of their resolve or prowess? It reflects denial and clinging to a curative model, when palliation will be kinder and more useful: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/22/saying-youre-fighting-a-war-on-cancer-could-make-you-lose-it.

    There are effective treatments for some cancers – and progress is being made with surgical techniques, medication and other therapies. Dementia is a more complex condition. There are essentially no success stories arising from the investment of billions of pounds world-wide in pursuit of a curative treatment. Less inflammatory dialogue will be more appropriate – encouraging health-giving life styles which are common to dementia prevention and promotion of general health – and a positive palliative ethos in the years with dementia, including death. This centres a great deal of control in individuals, families and communities in finding and using the tools which work. More satisfactory than waiting for an illusory magic bullet.

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    14th May 2018 | By David Jolley

    Several papers this week carried the headline that the Resolution Foundation had identified major conflict between older and younger generations – which might be fixed by sponsoring a gift of £10,000 to every UK citizen on their 25th birthday. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/02/pay-all-uk-25-year-olds-a-10000-inheritance-says-thinktank

    I had never heard of the Resolution Foundation nor its Intergenerational Commission – But this shows the strength of a quirky/daft recommendation in grabbing people’s attention.

    The resolution Foundation seems to be the brain child of Lord Professor David Willetts, one-time Conservative MP who held high office under David Cameron. He has been preoccupied for at least a decade with the notion that younger generations are now having a less good time than they feel they deserve and less goo than those which were experienced by recent previous generations.

    The observation is probably correct – and the source is certainly the financial crash which has led to austerity economics world wide www.theguardian.com/business/2011/aug/07/global-financial-crisis-key-stages

    The evidence collected by the commission found that within families older people are working generously to help their younger relatives by giving money and providing services to allow them to work, have holidays and buy homes. Far from being a situation of conflict, this sees families combining all their resources to fight a common enemy – This begins with the global problem of finance – and continues with the divisive policies of recent and current UK governments.

    David Willetts and his colleagues in the Resolution Foundation have produced multiple lengthy publications in these recent years, suggesting major and minor changes in the economy. The eye-catching idea of £10,000 to spend at £25 – irrespective of your wealth and career status at the time – is amongst the oddest of their thoughts.

    We have a problem – but it is not the fault of older people – indeed they/we are busy showing the way to cope.

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