“It’s taken a while to adjust to the fact that my dementia is not going away so we’re learning to do the things that we can do.”

George has been at the centre of the Chippenham community for decades. A former military man, the 91-year-old was the town’s mace bearer until the first lockdown, leading local dignitaries in Remembrance Day processions and other important civic events.  He was on the committee of the local Royal British Legion and an enthusiastic poppy seller. He’s also volunteered at Chippenham Museum, and is a member of the Chippenham and District Philatelic Society and would send regular reports of their activities to the local Gazette and Herald. All of these activities were curtailed by the pandemic, which left him and wife Briony feeling isolated.

Briony: “Our family was so concerned that we’d catch something during lockdown that they didn’t come round at all. It was getting quite depressing, especially as George had had mobility and sight issues for a long time.”

The couple, who met on the game farm where they both worked, have been together for more than 30 years. Although George had also been experiencing issues with his memory, they initially dismissed them. Briony said: “When you’re living with someone you don’t realise they have memory problems. If George was trying to say something I would finish the sentence for him. After so many years together it’s automatic.”

Movement for the Mind gets us out and doing more

When George was diagnosed with dementia in April 2021 and referred to Alzheimer’s Support the pandemic restrictions were beginning to ease. His dementia adviser, Carole, told them the charity’s community groups were opening again and after the isolation of lockdown, the couple realised they needed to get out more. George said: “Meeting people is what you miss during lockdown. I used to be quite morose and not talking very much, but going to the groups has made me quite chatty. You meet similar couples and it’s brought back all sorts of memories for me.”

The first group they tried was Movement for the Mind in Chippenham. George said: “It’s good because it makes you move and you go home worn out. It gets us out more and doing more. I wouldn’t miss going now.”

The impact of the group on his physical health has been dramatic. Briony said: “Before Movement for the Mind George used to be in a wheelchair, now he has more confidence to walk. Pash, the instructor, gives him a chair so he can push himself up and make him stronger and he squeezes a tennis ball to help with his grip. It’s made us think we can’t just sit in a chair and do nothing. Now George walks a short distance every day around the block and everyone knows him. I time him while he’s away so I know when he should return.”

George laughed: “I’d be in the doghouse if I didn’t come back!”

Now the couple also attend the Memory Café too which helps Briony as she can talk to carers in a similar situation. She said: “I go through stages of coping well, but sometimes it can be difficult. Every week we sit with someone different at the café so it’s a chance to talk to a different couple. I’m learning and it helps.”

Find out more about dementia advisers and activity groups