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Walking project for carers and disabled steps out on Sheppey from the Abbey Hotel, Minster

By John Nurden

They could be any group setting off on a stroll around Sheppey. But when this party left the Abbey Hotel grounds, in Minster, the members all had one thing in common.

They were all carers or people with disabilities, including dementia.

They were taking part in Stepping Out, a pilot project unique to Kent. It is backed by Sport England and organised by Kent Ramblers and Carers’ Support organisations. If successful, it could be rolled out across the rest of Britain.

The launch of the project to get carers respite by going on walks at the Abbey Hotel in Minster
The launch of the project to get carers respite by going on walks at the Abbey Hotel in Minster

It has already visited Folkestone, Ashford and Tenterden. Sheppey was fourth on the list and there are more planned, for Faversham, Deal, Thanet and part of the North Downs Way.

As well as providing valuable exercise, the walks give carers and their charges a couple of hours to get out and about.

Wayne Eaton, 61, could be mistaken for one of the leaders. But the former IT and business teacher is affected by dementia. It is incurable, but there are ways of managing it.

"I am trying to learn about dementia and how to live with it" - Wayne Eaton

He said: “I am trying to learn about dementia and how to live with it. But it is very tough. As it worsens, my grip on reality loosens. Dementia will get the better me in the end. But I will not go without a fight.”

His journey into what he calls ‘Dementia Land’ began in 2004 with a major heart attack. After seven years of testing he was finally diagnosed with mixed dementia in 2015. It meant he could no longer drive.

His personality changes led to problems at work and at home.

But Wayne, from Medway, said: “Those of us with dementia see these walks as an adventure. They are fun, lively, safe, well organised and affordable. Apart from our bus passes, they are one of the most valuable things which can be done for us.”

The next walk will be a guided tour around the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale near Faversham on Friday July 28. Registered carers are welcome to book at www.kentramblers.org.uk/carer_walks/ or call 01233-644393.

See also www.dementiainspired.co.uk

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