A Bristol scheme, run by Alzheimer’s Society, which matches volunteers with people living with dementia, is a finalist in Radio 4’s ‘All in the Mind Awards’ for improving mental health.
The ‘Side by Side’ service connects volunteers with people with dementia who have similar interests. They meet up regularly to do whatever they enjoy doing together. It can be anything from going to football, catching a movie, visiting a museum, a jog round the park or a good old mooch around the shops.
In July 2021 David, a volunteer from Cotham in Bristol, was matched with Simon who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease during the pandemic. They have since bonded through their shared love of history and theatre and enjoy going for walks.
Simon’s wife Ruth nominated ‘Side by Side’ for the award. She said: “A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is devastating at the best of times but at the peak of the pandemic it was so much worse. It was a difficult and lonely time for both of us and had a huge impact on our mental health.
“We were contacted about a project Alzheimer’s Society was running in Bristol called Side by Side. Simon and David got on like a house on fire, the rest, as they say, is history. Nearly every Monday David and Simon embark on some adventure. They have walked their socks off and done a critical analysis of the brownie offerings in Bristol. Without a doubt Simon’s mental health has improved and he is better able to deal with his diagnosis.”
BBC Radio 4 presenter Claudia Hammond launched the ‘All In The Mind’ awards to recognise those who have made a huge difference to other people’s lives. This year nearly 1,000 nominations were received – and Side by Side is a finalist. Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on Monday 26 June.
David said: “Side by Side is a wonderful scheme, and we all benefit. I’ve made two lovely friends in Ruth and Simon who I might not have met otherwise, and I can only thank Alzheimer’s Society. We have a great time, but it’s not a big deal, it’s just two old blokes hanging out together having fun.”
Sophia Simlat, Alzheimer’s Society’s Bristol Side by Side Co-ordinator, said: “I’m so touched that Simon and Ruth wanted to share their story in this way. David has been absolutely amazing and what an incredible way for his kindness to be celebrated. I hope because of this nomination more people will hear about ‘Side by Side’ and consider the impact they could have by volunteering.
“It’s estimated that 4,500 people are living with dementia in Bristol and too many are facing it alone. Alzheimer’s Society is a vital source of support a vital source of support and a powerful force for change for everyone affected by dementia.
“We just couldn’t do the life-changing work we do without the support of our amazing volunteers like David. If you’re inspired and want to become a Side by Side volunteer, please get in touch.”
To find out more about becoming a Side by Side volunteer with Alzheimer’s Society in Bristol please visit: https://jobs.alzheimers.org.uk/vacancies or call 0787 28 66 501.