“One of the biggest assumptions is that dementia isn’t a terminal illness,” says Keith Mitchell, of Glasgow's Golden Generation, where 80 per cent of elderly clients at its three day centres have some form of the illness.

The city-wide charity estimates that attendance at the centres, where pensioners benefit from brain-stimulating activities, companionship and a hot meal can delay admittance to care homes by two to three years.

They follow the social care model that “society adjusts to those with incapacity” and not the other way round so clients are picked up from their home and safely returned.


The centres give people “purpose and enjoyment in a safe environment” says Mr Mitchell, while offering crucial respite to relatives, particularly if they are the primary carer.

He says the previous Labour-run council cut respite care offered to people with dementia from six weeks to two, but it was re-instated by the SNP when they took control. However, according to Mr Mitchell, families can face significant waits.

All those who attend the day centres are still living at home. Staff at the resource-tight charity can’t take clients if they are “prone to wandering”.

When the charity was launched 50 years ago it was people in their 60s and 70s attending the centres, but most are now one or two decades older, with the added demands of a dementia diagnosis. “We are at the lower end of social care,” says Mr Mitchell. “We get people who are not long diagnosed. You don’t initially realise they have it, but if you ask them, they won’t be able to find their way home.

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“There’s a lot of evidence that if you keep mind and body active it will delay the progression.

“Everyone here is either lonely or isolated though, that’s the common thread. I broke my leg 15 years ago and I was laid low for six weeks and it was so frustrating so I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be alone all the time.”

Clients pay a small amount of money to attend the centres, which are all run on a shoestring and badly in need of modernisation and renovations but benefit from caring and devoted staff who know them inside out.

None more so than Mr Mitchell, former day centre manager who now handles the centre’s database and marketing activities. He’s a reassuring presence for both the clients and their carers, always on hand to advise on benefits and care home recommendations.

Dot Irwin, 74, proudly shows me the craft work she enjoys between bingo. She comes to the Fred Paton Centre four days a week for the “company and the dinners” and also attends one of the charity’s clubs, which are all run by older people.

“It’s a terrible disease,” she says quietly. “Sometimes I just can’t remember.” If she didn’t have the centre she says she “would just be sitting in the house”.


Most of those here who have dementia suffer a degree of impairment. They will repeat the same story to me several times, but can hold a lucid conversation. Mr Mitchell believes that staying mentally and physically active may have alleviated the worst effects of Alzheimer’s Disease for many here.

However, he says all will finally succumb to the physical effects of the illness when they will require the 24-hour nursing care that can cost up to £1,000 a week in care homes, which Alzheimer Scotland believes should be free.

The charity has a benefits advisor who helps the elderly claim money they are entitled to and says envelopes with cash donations are regularly sent in by grateful recipients.

At 87, Euphemia Lawrence, from Carmyle, comes to the Matty Carwood Centre five days a week and despite “not feeling her age” has very little short-term memory.

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Prompted by Mr Mitchell she tells me she worked for the WD&HO Wills cigarette factory on Alexandra Parade, in Glasgow’s east end, which employed some 3,500 people and produced 260 million cigarettes a week. Her job was to peel the tobacco leaves off and she recalls wearing gloves to protect her skin from the resin.

It’s a b*****” says Dorothy MacFadyen of the Alzheimer’s disease that also blighted her mother’s life in later years.


A widow of 20 years her husband died within a year of retirement from lung cancer, putting paid to all the plans the couple had. Mrs MacFadyen, who is dressed smartly in bright yellow, and lives in sheltered housing on Crow Road will repeat that to me several times during our conversation.

She recalls her own mother suffering from Alzheimer’s to the point when she didn’t recognise her daughter but doesn’t recall the specifics of her own diagnosis.

She said: “I can cook, I can go out, I can bake. I can get drunk. I’ve got my appetite. I can stand on my head if I feel like it,” she jokes.

“I just live my life normally. I don’t go to bed at night thinking, oh that’s another day. It doesn’t worry me. You just have to live with it.

“I like the company. My mother ended up in a home but she was 92 when she died. I’m heading that way.

“My daughter is a nurse at Hairmyres East Kilbride and she will say ‘are you breathing? If you need me, phone me’. And I don’t phone her because I don’t need her.”


She tells me she worked as a typist for British Rail and then the Queen Mother’s maternity hospital, where she met her husband, who worked as a draftsman for the health board.

Her advice to others coping with a diagnosis? “Don’t worry about it. There’s nothing you can do about it, you’ve got it. So you make the most of it.

“This is a Godsend. Two days a week, I know I’m coming here.”

Mr Mitchell says: “People think if you have dementia you are completely incapacitated but the progression of, and the manner in which the condition is manifest is different from individual to individual and users are at different stages of the ‘journey’.

“I think it’s important to remember that people affected by dementia retain capacity and are able to make decisions for themselves unless otherwise proven. At our centres for example, users, including those with dementia, are able to make their own determination on the choice of activities and lunchtime menu for example –the crux of what the centres offer.”

Alfie Brown, 82, from Castlemilk, attends the David Cargill Centre, near Hampden stadium five days a week, giving his wife and full-time carer Rose, who is in her 70s, some respite.


He prefers male company but given that most of the clients are women, it’s not easy to cater for his preferences. Mr Mitchell admits his own father would have baulked at the idea of going to a day centre and says it can be more difficult to persuade men to attend its centres.

Mr Brown, who has a son and a daughter, tells me he worked as a telegraph boy then a postman for most of his life in Govanhill, describing it as a “fantastic job” and was an ardent supporter of Third Lanark before the club went out of business in 1967.

Dementia is “just one of those things,” he says cheerfully. “It’s given me a lot of confidence,” he says of the centre. “We keep each other going.” His wife Rose, 79, says she is coping with help from her son and daughter, who live close by, but is aware that a care home will be necessary at some point. However, she says she is fortunate that her husband retained a decent pension from his postal work to fund the cost.

The only help they currently receive is a care worker coming in three times a week to help Mr Brown take a shower.


The couple have been married 60 years and met at Barrowlands Ballroom and Rose says his good humour quells any frustrations they have over his frequent memory lapses. 

“My only worry is that he will get up in the middle of the night and go out. I knew someone who did that and he was found dead, with the cold.”

GGG needs to raise just under £1 million per annum to fulfil all their vital services to the elderly in Glasgow. If you would like to make a donation or wish to help the fundraising drive in any way through an individual donation, corporate support or offering a grant towards these vital services then please email Richard Donald on richard.donald@glasgowgg.org.uk.