A host of golfing greats and celebrities descended on Wentworth Golf Club at the star-studded Pro-Am day of the BMW PGA Championship, to help support and raise funds for the tournament’s charity partner, leading dementia charity Alzheimer’s Society.
The worlds of cricket and football merged on the course, with cricketers including Ben Stokes in action alongside sporting legends like Ian Wright, Jimmy Bullard, Nemanja Vidić and Harry and Jamie Redknapp. Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador Robbie Savage, whose late father had dementia, also brought out his golf clubs and joined Jack Butland and his former Manchester United colleagues Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.
Keen golfers such as Niall Horan, Love Island star Chris Hughes, Radio DJ Chris Evans, Ronan Keating and actor James Nesbitt joined world No. 2 Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood and Ian Poulter to back the charity and celebrate World Alzheimer’s Day today 21 September. Earlier this year, Chris Evans ran the Virgin Money London Marathon for Dementia Revolution, a partnership between Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. He is continuing to support the campaign to help fund vital dementia research by training and raising money for the Amsterdam Marathon (20 October).
Dementia is now the UK’s biggest killer with someone developing it every three minutes – yet dementia research still trails far behind other health conditions, after decades of underfunding. Funds raised will go towards finding a cure as well as delivering vital support, such as through Alzheimer’s Society’s National Dementia Helpline.
They were joined at the tee and on the green by a group keen golfers from Cambridgeshire affected by dementia, demonstrating how dementia shouldn’t be a barrier to inclusion, if the stigma surrounding it is eradicated, and more golf clubs and wider society adopt dementia friendly attitudes and practices.
Terry Stewart (57), was diagnosed with dementia in 2014 and faced the prospect of giving up his favourite pastime. But his golfing partners David Cope, Mark Shaw and Stewart Hastings adapted the game, making sure he tees off last with a yellow ball to make it easier for him to spot the ball, having a familiar routine to get ready and ‘buddying up’ so they can score for him and guide him to his ball.
Terry said: “We have played golf together for over 25 years – without golf, there would be a huge gap in my life. Thanks to my friends and invaluable information from Alzheimer’s Society, I’m still able to get out there and enjoy the game and have a laugh with friends. I’m living proof that people with dementia don’t have to give up the things they love.”
There are 850,000 people living with dementia currently in the UK. There should be no barriers for people with dementia to maintaining active lives, particularly as physical activity improves the wellbeing of people with dementia and can improve memory and slow down mental decline. But sadly, around a quarter (22%) of people with dementia have had to give up exercise after being diagnosed.
Alzheimer’s Society launched a Sport and Physical Activity Guide earlier this year and through working closely with organisations like England Golf and Sport England, the charity is taking steps to ensure the sport and leisure industry is dementia-friendly and supporting clubs and organisations to put in place the right support and adjustments.
Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador Robbie Savage added: “My dad helped me achieve my dreams of becoming a professional footballer and he’s inspired me to proudly support Alzheimer’s Society.
“As the number of people living with dementia in the UK rises, there are too many people out there who are left isolated and facing a future alone.
“Terry and his pals are inspirational and it’s great that the BMW PGA Championship has given them a stage to show that people with dementia don’t have to ditch the golf clubs after a dementia diagnosis – everyone should be able to keep up an active lifestyle at home or in the community if they choose.”
As well sports clubs and organisations, individuals can also do their bit on World Alzheimer’s Day to tackle the stigma of dementia. Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme now numbers three million people and is the UK’s biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia, aiming to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about the condition.
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive Officer at Alzheimer’s Society said:
“We are delighted to be uniting with England Golf and the PGA Championship and raising awareness of what’s possible when the right support and adjustments are put in place, so people with dementia can remain active. Until we find a cure, it’s vital that we do everything we can to make sure everyone with dementia can continue to lead full and meaningful lives. We’re proud to announce that we have now reached three million Dementia Friends, and the PGA Championship joins them and hundreds of communities and other organisations in making this a reality.”
Alzheimer’s Society has a two-year partnership with PGA, which will see the UK’s leading dementia charity join the European Tour Foundation as beneficiaries of all charitable funds raised during the fourth Rolex Series event of the season.
Jamie Birkmyre, the European Tour’s Championship Director for the event, added:
“We are delighted to welcome Alzheimer’s Society as the Official Charity for the BMW PGA Championship. The work that they do across the UK is tremendous, supporting people affected by dementia and funding much-needed research into treatment and cures for of the UK’s biggest killer. With World Alzheimer’s Day taking place on the Saturday of our tournament, there could not be a better time to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s Society as they try to achieve their vision of a world without dementia.”
This World Alzheimer’s Day, help change the way we think, act and talk about dementia by joining three million Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends. Visit dementiafriends.org.uk to get involved.