Our 2020 summarised
Our Monday walks continued, and our first one of 2020 was a wet and soggy one! Scottish charity, Paths for All, support two projects of ours: our weekly walks, and our dementia friendly promenade project* (see thanks and acknowledgements)
Our relaxed cinema afternoons moved home, to a venue with more space, to accommodate our expanding audiences. St Quivox Church Hall welcomed us warmly, and our first film of the year was Singin’ In the Rain. Free refreshments are available throughout, thanks to donations from Sainsburys.
Strong winds blew our hardy walkers along the promenade. Our band of volunteers look after our walkers, and just one of our weekly walks was cancelled this month, due to unsafe winds.
Two people signed up to the Tartan Walk half marathon challenge, and despite the walk being called off, Julie and Emma raised £860. This donation was earmarked for the dementia friendly promenade project. Together with donations from UPM Paper Mill staff, and grants from Sustrans ArtsRoots, Paths for All and South Ayrshire Council, our working group commissioned more elements for the promenade.
Strength and Balance posts are installed in two locations: the seafront, and Boydfield Gardens. The posts encouraged people to gently exercise: some moves are designed for people standing, and for some seated, catering for different abilities.
February’s film was Meet Me in St Louis.
At the start of the month, we joined unpaid carers and people with dementia in Kilmarnock. Age Scotland brought together people to contribute to the next National Dementia Strategy. A couple of our walkers joined us.
The sun started to join us on our Monday walks! Artist Alec Finlay and poet Ken Cockburn gave us walking sticks with lines of poetry on them, and we were sent the first engineering drawings of our poetic wind vanes.
We were invited to talk to delegates at Paths for All annual conference in Stirling. How we supported our walkers, and our plans for the infrastructure around the beach, was shared with people.
On the 9th of March, we paused our relaxed cinema afternoons and Monday walks before the first coronavirus lockdown was implemented.
At the end of the month, volunteer and local artist, Jen, drew a picture for us, to let people know we were thinking of them.
We love feeding people, and we had planned on giving out creme eggs – disguised as knitted rabbits and Easter chicks – during our Easter-themed cinema afternoon. Our small cohort of knitters had been busy since February! Instead, we donated our knitted Easter baskets and animals to a local care home, and we know the chocolate treats were well received.
We were featured in Paths for All’s newsletter, Footnotes. Our knitting super star, Julie B, told Scottish readers about our work in Prestwick.
In August 2019, we joined the Meeting Centres UK Network, and we are working towards launching a social club for people with early to moderate dementia and their families. The Meeting Centre model is a successful one in the Netherlands, providing dementia care and services within local communities (no personal care or handling of medicines). We have broad support for this, and meetings and fundraising continued throughout 2020. Life Changes Trust agreed to fund a pilot project, and due to lockdown restrictions, we have modified our plans to deliver a Virtual Meeting Centre, in the time being. We are working towards being the second MC in Scotland, and the first in Ayrshire.
Together with other Scottish organisations, we became partners with Outside the Box. Outside the Box offers community-led, practical support, for groups developing Covid-response actions.
While we can’t be together, we wanted to create something together. And so we launched our knitting project. We have people sending us knitted and crocheted squares from across the country. When we can get together, we’ll create a big “knitted narrative” of our coronavirus stories, and South Ayrshire Museums and Galleries offered to display our community’s artwork.
Dementia Awareness Week arrived, and it was our 4th birthday. We made a short film with some highlights of the previous 12 months, and it was lovely to share happier times.
Our knitting project was covered in the local press, and more fabulous squares arrived.
This month saw us launch “Bags of Support”, part of our Virtual Meeting Centre plan, and our response to the coronavirus. This was supported with additional funding from the Corra Foundation, and with a joint funding bid with the Ayr Gaiety Partnership. Every Thursday, we deliver to local doorsteps a delicious, nutritious (and highly calorific!) three course lunch to people with dementia living at home (including their family carer, too). We agreed to also deliver to older people living at home alone, who would benefit from this, too. Our first week, we delivered to some of the people who were regular walkers, whom we hadn’t seen in weeks.
Our local Member of Parliament joined in our deliveries. Dr Philippa Whitford MP accompanied our regular volunteer who delivers to a local retirement village, and Phillipa’s husband baked a traditional German cake to share with all. As we were preparing the bags, we realised there was rum in the cake. We pointed this out to everyone as we delivered the lunch bags, and no complaints were received.
We have been touched by how the community has joined together to support our initiative. Numbers have grown, referrals made, and an army of home bakers have made tablet, truffles, cupcakes and more for us to share.
World Alzheimer’s Day was different to previous ones, as we couldn’t organise our usual get-togethers. Instead, we took to the radio, podcasts, and online videos. We were interviewed live on BBC Radio Scotland as part of their coverage of the day. A walking podcast was created with Paths for All, too.
An exciting day on the seafront, as our poetic wind vanes are installed! While a bit of fun, whimsy and public art, they have also served to raise awareness of our charity and our aims. A photographer and a video production company were commissioned by Paths for All to create content that captured how the community feels about the project. Several of our walkers and volunteers were interviewed, drone footage shot, and a beautiful archive of our journey so far. The sun shone, too!
21st of September saw our organised walks restart, following guidelines. We are fortunate to have enough trained Walk Leaders to safely resume our walks, because – despite some cold and wet weather, and without being able to offer teas and coffees as before – more people wanted to walk with us than before. Several people who received our Bags of Support joined our walks, including a 91 year old with eyesight problems. During lockdown, she lost some of her mobility, and lots of her confidence. With a little support from us, she’s now a popular, regular walker, and is often found kicking a ball for one of our volunteer’s dogs. She donated tomatoes from her greenhouse, too.
The number of local people we’re supporting each week with our lunch and activity packs is now 25.
In recognition of our commitment to walking, we were asked to contribute to the “Women and Girls in Sport Week”. A discussion panel online, called ‘A conversation on the Impact and Importance of physical activity for women and girls in Scotland’ was hosted by Lee Craigie who is Active Nation Commissioner for Scotland.
Our dementia friendly signpost was installed this month. Bright colours, strong colour contrasts, clear images, and distances measured in miles AND time taken to walk….it’s been very well received. We were in the local newspapers, and posing with the sign was great fun.
We were invited to join a working group looking at public travel and how to make it more accessible for people with dementia. Productive Zoom meetings happened throughout the autumn, and the progress so far was presented by UpStream and Paths for All (the lead agencies) to an all party group at the Scottish Government. Bus operators have come forward to expand on the work, which we continue to support.
We were invited to join the newly formed South Ayrshire Food Network, a group of organisations helping to support people in food poverty, or who were experiencing issues brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Together we’re exploring how to bring food pantries to the area.
Two new volunteers joined us, who work (but currently furloughed) in catering and hospitality. As the number of our walkers and recipients of our lunch bags increased (30 people now on our Bags of Support list), their input and efforts were welcomed. We didn’t pause for the Christmas period, and we continued to deliver our Bags of Support on Christmas Eve and on Hogmanay. We included Christmas treats, homemade decorations and cards, and for Hogmanay…little bottles of ginger beer or rose lemonade.
As the year ended, a new opportunity presented itself…a home for Dementia Friendly, and a venue for our Meeting Centre. A community collaboration, and one which will have a lasting legacy for the town. Here’s to a peaceful 2021, when we can meet up safely again.
Thanks and Acknowledgements
Paths for All
Macmillian Cancer Support
South Ayrshire Council (Sport and Leisure, Planning, People)
Ayrshire Roads Alliance
Voluntary Action South Ayrshire
Ayr Gaiety Partnership