Reunited by Dementia Activism and Kent Cricket: the story of three Bromley friends

Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich Mind’s Young Onset Dementia Activists (YODAs) enjoy a fun-filled day at Beckenham Cricket Ground, courtesy of Kent Cricket Community Trust (KCCT).

To mark Dementia Action Week (15th-21st May), Kent Cricket Community Trust provided a fun-filled day to the local Dementia Activist group: Young Onset Dementia Activists (YODAs), run by Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich Mind (BLG Mind).

YODA exists to support people diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia and introduces a peer support element which enables those who attend to talk through their situation with someone else in the same position, someone who really understands.

Dementia is termed ‘young onset’ when it affects people before the age of 65. There are over 70,800 people estimated to be living with the condition in the UK.

The South London group, described by its members as a ‘lifesaver and a lifeline’, shows that dementia doesn’t discriminate, and that support like this is needed up and down the country.

YODA manager Saira, the driving force behind YODA has received widespread praise. “Saira is a phenomenal woman,” said one YODA, while Ellie Reeves, MP for Lewisham West and Penge, described her as “inspirational”.

Although Saira is the driving force behind YODA, today was driven by a long-lost connection between three attendees, and the realisation of their mutual love for cricket.

Daz, a fellow YODA, came to the UK from India aged 8 and found his love for cricket as a schoolboy in Ilford. He became a Deputy Headteacher, but continued his passion for cricket, playing in a successful over-60s cricket team. When he joined YODA in his early 60s, he instantly made a connection with fellow YODA and ex-policeman, Alan, who also shares his passion for cricket.

Alan, who cares for his wife, Ann, had initially struggled to cope when she received a young onset dementia diagnosis.  Despite dealing with disasters as a police officer for 30 years, nothing could prepare Alan for “the disaster that struck” his family’s life.

Left to right: Graeme, Daz, and Alan.

It was two years after Alan and Daz had met, that Alan had a chat with another fellow cricket fan, his friend Graeme, who he’d known for over 50 years. Alan filled him in about YODA and mentioned that he’d met Daz.

Graeme’s eyes lit up as he realised, that he used to teach at the same school as Daz and has played cricket with him many times. Without hesitation, Graeme wanted to do something to support the work of the YODAs, and connected with Kent Cricket Community Trust who kindly offered a Cricket and Tea event for the whole group.

“It was then I realised, we were all reunited by our love for cricket…Today was much more than just a game of cricket – it was a reunion of old friends” – Alan said.

Daz, who arrived in his cricket best, added “This day has brought back many fond memories for me”  

Kent Cricket Community Trust hosted this heart-warming event as it aligns with one of their priorities – to use cricket to support the local community, especially those that may be more difficult to engage with.

Sarah Osborn, Development Manager at Kent Cricket Community Trust explained, “The trust delivers cricket and tea events as part of our 50 Overs programme which we adapt to suit the needs of the group. Today the YODAs played a slower-paced version of a cricket game, with all the tactics, rules, teamwork, and social interaction, just at a slower pace. This was then followed by a cricket tea, to chat about memories of sport and the importance of keeping active”.

Saira, who runs the Young Onset Dementia Activists group, added:

 “Dementia Action Week inspires the UK public to take action to improve the lives of people affected by dementia, and this kind of event is exactly the type of thing that can make a big difference in the YODAs lives. I’m always looking for different activities for the YODAs so that we can continue to make wonderful memories like these.”

Find out more about BLG Mind’s Young Onset Dementia Activists.