Walking the patch

Chris Holden, Buckinghamshire & Surrey Trading Standards  |  Published: Jun 28th 2017
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Wendover Dementia Alliance is keen to understand how people living with dementia experience the environment around and about. The environment includes the roads, pathways, greenspaces and shared spaces such as shops and amenities; the things most of us take for granted.

Walking the Patch is as it suggests, a walk around Wendover, but through the eyes of someone living with dementia. Five members of the Alliance, including two members with a diagnosis of dementia and a carer who can longer get around without her mobility scooter, were separately accompanied by Cara Saul of Lindengate who filmed their progress as they traversed the highways and byways of Wendover.

In common with many people living with dementia one of our walkers has a significant mobility problem and needs a rollator to help with his balance. Problems were caught on film at a number of points as our walker tried to navigate certain pathways in Wendover. The biggest concern for both able bodied and the ‘walker’ was the narrow pathway along South Street. Although recently cut back, the hedging reduces the width of the pathway and the camber tends to push the rollator user towards the road.  With cars speeding up as they leave Wendover, the noise can be both disorienting and distressing. Matters are made worse by the lamppost which intrudes into the pathway as you approach the junction with Chapel Lane. The narrowness of the pathway made it absolutely inaccessible to the mobility scooter user.

Another area of concern, perhaps less so during the drier months, is the green and cricket ground below Witchell Pavilion walking down towards Heron Path. The rollator user could walk readily across the green, but the mobility scooter user could not access the green due to the step. During winter months the rollator gets stuck in the soggy ground. A concrete pathway would be one way of addressing this. Access across from the green to Heron Path is via a gate, stiff and particularly awkward to open whilst balancing with a rollator. Equally problematic to both rollator and mobility scooter users is the path where it has been broken up and lifted by the tree roots.

However, the number of benches along the Heron Path is a positive, as is the seating in most of the public spaces in Wendover, for instance around the library and on the Manor Waste. Indeed both of our volunteer ‘walkers’ advised that in general they find Wendover is already well on the way to being dementia friendly. This was especially borne out when on another day Cara accompanied an able bodied lady, who lives with dementia, as she went about her business in the village centre. 

We had already discovered that the layout of the post office, currently difficult for disabled access due to the tills being located close to the doorway, is going to be amended to improve access and egress. With the imminent closure of Lloyds bank in the High Street the post office will become the main source of financial resources for those with limited transport means. Other businesses are also taking steps to ensure their customers living with dementia get the support and service they need. Lloyds the Chemist in the High Street told Cara that all of their staff have attended Dementia Information sessions to become Dementia Friends and Budgens has requested sessions from Alliance Dementia Champions. All shops and market stalls visited were clearly committed wherever possible to making themselves dementia friendly and welcomed and engaged well with our volunteer.

However, it is not only accessibility to shops and public spaces that make a community truly dementia friendly. Both our volunteers were equally generous in their praise of friends and neighbours who have always been ready and willing to help should they get into difficulties. 

"Walking the patch with people living with dementia helps to identify ways in which we as a dementia action alliance can support local facilities to become more dementia friendly’" said Natalie Judson from the Bucks County Council’s Communities Team.  "However, taking everything into consideration, Wendover clearly comes out as very sympathetic to the needs of those living with dementia and their carers and deserve congratulating."

Cara’s short film can be seen by clicking here

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