Mike makes a change

Despite his illness Mike and his wife Lyn discover a new lease of life and remain optimistic about the future.

Mike Hancock knew he had a problem when, halfway through building a garden trellis, he suddenly forgot how to make a right-angle.

“Normally I could knock trellis together like nobody’s business,” says former engineer Mike. “So when I couldn’t measure that angle, I thought, there’s something wrong here.”

A barrage of medical tests followed and eventually Mike was diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia. At just 57 years old, the diagnosis was devastating, not only for Mike but also for his wife, Lyn.

“It was really difficult,” explains Lyn. “Obviously, Mike couldn’t drive anymore, so we couldn’t go away at weekends in our motor home. And he had to give up work.”

Suddenly finding himself with nothing to do was a real problem for Mike.

“It was very hard,” he says. “I’ve been on the go my whole life, you know?”

Doctors agreed that he needed to stay active in order to keep the dementia at bay, so Mike and Lyn began searching for something suitable.

“There were masses of dementia activities on offer, but when we got there they were people in their eighties,” says Lyn. “They were very nice, but day after day it was no good because we didn’t have anything to talk about.”

“And they all played musical bingo!” laughs Mike, rolling his eyes. “It did my head in!”

Although he tried any activity he could find, Mike still wasn’t getting the fulfilment he so desperately needed. One rainy afternoon, Mike and Lyn were sitting at home, idly flicking through the papers. Suddenly, Lyn came across an advert that made her look twice: it was for the LinkAge Cinema Club.

“I thought, that might be quite good! So we went along,” she says. 

“It was just in a small room with a dozen seats,” adds Mike. “When we got there, we had a cup of tea and a cake, which was very nice. And you could pick out a film that you would like to see and they would try and get that film for you.”

“We watched The Big Sleep, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall,” says Lyn. “I’d never seen anything like it, but we were quite glued to it!”

Pleased to have found something they both enjoyed and which was attended by others their own age, Mike and Lyn quickly signed themselves up for some more LinkAge activities. Soon, Mike began attending classes to learn skills he’d never dreamed of trying, including cookery.

“It was really good – and I didn’t think I’d enjoy it,” he admits. “I mean, I don’t do cooking, beans on toast is about my limit!”

Today, both Mike and Lyn are regulars at a range of LinkAge activities, from the local walking group to the weekly clubs for skittles and archery. The fact that these activities are for everyone, not just aimed at those with dementia, is important to Mike.

“I think it’s better for people who have got dementia to be mixing with normal people,” he says. “[At LinkAge] they don’t treat me as if I’ve got dementia – they treat me as a person.”

Despite his illness, Mike is optimistic about the future. He and Lyn are making the most of every day, and they say it’s thanks to LinkAge that they can maintain such a busy and active social life.

“[If it wasn’t for LinkAge], things would be entirely different and I don’t quite know what would have happened,” says Lyn. “It’s made life bearable. Well, more than bearable – it’s made it life again!”