Charlotte explores the positive link between golf and dementia and what golf clubs should be doing to adapt.
According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, almost one million people are estimated to be living with dementia in the UK. It’s one of the leading causes of death in this country, and more than half of the UK public know someone who has been diagnosed with some form of dementia.
Perhaps even more devastatingly, the number of people with dementia worldwide is expected to grow rapidly; from 55 million in 2020 to 139 million in 2050, according to the World Health Organisation.
But there is some good news is: There’s growing evidence to suggest a positive link between dementia and golf.
Research has shown that golf is likely to reduce the risk of getting dementia and slow down the cognitive and physical decline in people already living with the condition.
The impact of moderate exercise on our overall health is well documented, but a deeper dive into the findings suggests that the benefits of golf for people with dementia are due to more than just the physical activity the game promotes.
Golf provides an opportunity for dementia sufferers to interact socially, feel part of a community and re-gain a sense of self. In an increasingly strange world, golf represents some familiarity and a chance to rekindle memories or emotions – even if for just a short period of time.
The game also provides the sensory stimulation – sights, sounds, touch and smells – that is so important in improving the quality of life for people living with dementia. People with dementia often miss out on these experiences due to a sense of fear, isolation and confusion.
A final but important point is that golf also provides some respite for carers of people living with dementia.
Dementia-friendly golf clubs
What’s clear from all the research is that a dementia diagnosis does not have to mean it’s time to hang up the golf clubs.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Whether you’re a lifelong golfer or brand new to the game, golf is an accessible sport for people with dementia.
And as golf clubs look to address their ageing and diminishing memberships, it’s time they introduce dementia-friendly policies to support people living with the condition.
This week, I received an email from a Women & Golf reader who told me about someone at her club with dementia. Without family nearby, the golf club has become that person’s support network, and she goes to the club to socialise every day. Can you imagine if that was taken away from her?
The reader told me that with a few new policies in place, including dementia awareness training for staff, she’s been able to continue to be an active member of the club.
“Working with The Alzheimer’s Society, England Golf provide support and guidance for golf clubs to become more dementia friendly. They gave us some great advice.”
That’s just one story, but I’m sure there are thousands similar around the country.
It’s so important that clubs adapt to enable people with dementia to continue to play and socialise and feel part of the club.
Read England Golf’s Dementia Friendly Sports Guide.
If you or someone you know are living with dementia, you’ll find support and advice at dementiauk.org. The UK Care Guide also has lots of helpful information about living with dementia.