Dementia affects more than 850,000 people in the UK, and is more likely to affect you in later life.
Symptoms of the condition include memory loss, confusion in familiar places and leaving items in the wrong place, such as an iron in a fridge.
Although causes of the condition are unknown, there are steps you can take to minimise your risk factors.
These include exercising regularly, eating healthily and fighting feelings of loneliness.
Currently an estimated 1.2 million over 65s feel lonely in the UK, something which they could fight by taking up dog walking.
A new initiative, piloted last month by Mars Petcare and PEDIGREE, aims to send people on a doggy ‘date’.
Signing up online or through a quick telephone call, it is hoped that people will be able to go on a walk with fellow dog walkers in their local community.
“We’ve only just gone live with this,” said an excited Chris Rodi, from Mars Petcare UK.
“It’s much simpler to meet new people with dogs. You say hello to the dog making it much more informal.”
The first pilot walk in Mowbray town, Somerset, was a big success for combatting loneliness. People walked and chatted quite naturally amongst each other, and numbers were exchanged at the end.
One person on the walk was Doreen, over 65, who “absolutely loved” the day.
She has lived in the area for years, but recently found herself feeling more isolated as people she knew moved away, meaning she had no one who could just pop in for coffee.
“She has two daughters that call her once a week but that’s almost it”, explained Chris.
“She got quite emotional at the end of the walk, and said it was so nice spending time with someone else.”
Doreen got to exchange numbers with the owner of a golden cockapoo, and they’re tipped to be off on another date soon.
Mars Petcare UK, which helps organising these dog walks, is appealing for people to sign up to help run the initiative.
“We can’t do this alone,” said Chris.
“The number of elderly people currently suffering with chronic loneliness in the UK is staggering and we firmly believe this initiative can go a long way to reconnect people with their local communities.”
Being lonely can increase your risk of dementia, as well as alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders and depression.
The link was suggested by a 2012 study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
Dutch researchers found that your risk of dementia increased by 64 per cent if you suffered from loneliness.
“Individuals with feelings of loneliness remained 1.64 times more likely to develop clinical dementia than persons who did not feel lonely,” said lead researcher Dr Tjalling Jan Holwerda from VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, when the study was first published.
“Interestingly the fact that ‘feeling lonely’ rather than ‘being alone’ was associated with dementia onset suggests that it is not the objective situation but, rather, the perceived absence of social attachments that increases the risk of [brain decline].”
PEDIGREE is encouraging anyone who is interested in bringing PEDIGREE Dog Dates to their local community to register their interest.
Published at Fri, 11 May 2018 14:01:00 +0000