I took a short trip down memory lane on Saturday. The occasion was the annual Memory Walk, organised by the Alzheimer’s Society. This year, we were in Dudley, at the zoo. I was in short trousers the last time I went to Dudley Zoo. Fortunately, for the other walkers, Saturday’s autumnal weather ensured I kept my legs covered this time.
It must be at least 40 years since I last visited the zoo. I can’t remember it clearly but I do know that Mum took my sister and I. So, four decades on, I was there again, without Mum this time but with her very much in my thoughts. Memory Walks happen all over the country at this time every year and if Dudley is anything to go by, their popularity is increasing. Around 900 walkers were expected to step out – I can’t claim to have counted every one – but it was a very heartening turnout.
Heartening and sobering in equal measure. Heartening because so many people want to make a stand against dementia and sobering because so many lives now seem touched by the cruellest of diseases. Many walk with the names of loved ones pinned to their chests. Reading the simple messages as we walk is a rather choking experience and a lump was never far from my throat.
But no matter how much money is raised by the Memory Walks, no matter how much publicity and awareness is generated, my overwhelming feeling after every walk is one of comfort, the comfort which comes from strength in numbers. 70 thousand people in the West Midlands have dementia (only half of those have a diagnosis by the way) and that 70 thousand can be multiplied several times by relatives and friends whose lives are affected in one way or another.
So, no matter how isolated we can feel when dementia comes close, there are many others with similar feelings. Take strength from memories and from the Memory Walk.