Alzheimer’s Society in Swindon urgently need volunteers to match, Side by Side, with people living with dementia

Alzheimer’s Society’s Side by Side service in Swindon is looking for volunteers to pair up with people affected by dementia who share a common interest, love or hobby.

The UK’s leading dementia charity aims to reconnect people living with dementia with their communities and favourite pastimes. Side by Side was designed in response to Alzheimer’s Society research that shows people with dementia are more at risk of loneliness than the general population – with a third of people reporting to have lost friends since their diagnosis.  Two thirds of people with dementia remain in their communities, but many feel trapped in their own homes – with almost one in 10 only leaving the house once a month.*

Side by Side, which is supported by the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, uses a new approach to volunteering by matching people through their shared interests. It has proved so popular with people living with dementia that the charity is urgently calling on more volunteers to be paired up.

From joining a local club, going to the football, or just going for a stroll in the park, this innovative service pairs people with dementia and volunteers with shared interests.

The top activities people with dementia want to do with a volunteer include:

  • Walks to beaches and nature spots
  • Visiting places of interest such as museums and art galleries
  • Trips to garden centres
  • Spending time chatting with someone over a cup of tea

63 year-old Kevin O’Donoghue, from Highworth, has been volunteering with Alzheimer’s Society for six months. He said: “I had been considering volunteering opportunities since retiring in 2016. Dementia stood out as a major issue. I did a Dementia Friends Information Session to increase my understanding of the condition. Following that I decided to become a Dementia Friends Champion, raising awareness of dementia in my local community.

“I came across the Side by Side initiative on the Alzheimer’s Society website. Doing something I enjoy, in company with someone else, seemed to be a good way to spend my time, so I went through the process to be a Side by Side volunteer. You need a DBS check but once that was done I was paired with one gentleman and then later another.

“Now, on alternate Fridays, I go bird watching with one gentleman, and walking with another. From what they, and their partners tell me, my efforts are very much appreciated, and that is good to know. Really I feel a bit of a fraud, as I am only doing what I enjoy doing anyway!”

Heather Ashley, Alzheimer’s Society Side by Side Co-ordinator for Swindon said; “Loneliness is a real problem for people with dementia, yet we know that one of the most important things for those affected is to remain part of their community and continue to do the things they love – from going shopping to enjoying a local football match.

“Our Side by Side service in Swindon, offering one to one support, is a vital step to making this a reality. By 2021, 1 million people in the UK will be living with the condition, so it’s vital that we all unite against dementia and do what we can to make a meaningful difference, such as becoming a volunteer”.

Current Side by Side volunteers have reported that they have gained and shared skills, developed new friendships and even enhanced their CV as a result of participating in the service. Side by Side is designed to be flexible so that anyone can sign up – a telephone service is also available so people with limited time can also volunteer.

Anyone interested in becoming a Side by Side volunteer or would like to access the service should visit or contact Clare Lucas on 01249 443469.