Where Did Dementia Adventure’s Name Come From?

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A large group of people standing on a green lawn and smiling at the camera.

How Dementia Adventure Got Its Name

We love that the name Dementia Adventure is so memorable, and we’re very proud of how emotive it is! It all started with our founders Neil Mapes and Lucy Harding…

Our Name is Born

Back in 2001 Neil was working in a day centre for people with dementia. He was passionate about his job, but he was leaving it soon in order to go travelling in Peru.

When a client who lived with dementia needed to head home early one day, her husband quickly arrived to pick her up. Upon Neil’s mentioning to him that he was going travelling, the carer made a quip that stuck with Neil for years afterwards. “Oh, I see,” he said. “You’re leaving dementia to have an adventure!”

The inequality of that moment stuck in Neil’s mind. The fact that he could ‘leave’ dementia but this client and her husband couldn’t stayed with him. And shouldn’t everyone get the chance to go on an adventure every now and then? The two words stuck together in his mind. Surely there was a way that people living with dementia could keep having adventures, Neil reasoned. He started writing notes about Dementia Adventure from then on.

Dementia Adventure Comes to Life

Neil and his wife Lucy both had personal experience with dementia, with four respective grandparents who had lived and died with it. Over the years the idea continued to develop – Neil had expertise in dementia care and support; Lucy had longtime experience in the adventure travel industry.  The couple recognised that once people receive a diagnosis they often end up spending a disproportionate amount of time inside, often with a negative impact on their wellbeing. Eight years later, their concept came to life; Neil and Lucy co-founded Dementia Adventure in 2009. 

The Dementia Adventure office and van.

In June 2010, Dementia Adventure’s receipt of the Social Entrepreneur Millennium Award from UnLtd provided a grant to develop the organisation, as well as to run a consultation for people living with dementia to identify what they wanted from a ‘dementia inclusive’ holiday. By September 2011, Dementia Adventure had organised their first supported short break, as a genuine alternative to traditional respite.  

These short breaks were life changing for the people who went on them, but Neil and Lucy knew that they could only reach so many people using these alone. Meanwhile, many organisations out there working with people living with dementia still tended to be quite risk-averse when it came to including people with dementia in outdoor activities. Dementia Adventure’s aim was to help as many people living with dementia as possible to access the wellbeing benefits of the outdoors; how could they realise this goal when they could only take a few people at a time on their holidays?

Expanding Our Reach

What they needed to do, they decided, was to take their message to other organisations, and offer them the support they needed to be confident in helping their beneficiaries get outside. With that, Dementia Adventure’s impact would dramatically increase. Neil and Lucy had already been providing some training and consultancy services, but they were limited in terms of capacity. It was time for Dementia Adventure to grow.

A large training session. The trainer stands up front beside a screen, while many seated people listen to what he's saying through headphones.

In June 2013, we successfully received funding which enabled us to employ two project leaders, expanding our ability to deliver more training and consultancy work across England. We recruited a further two project leaders in 2014 and 2015. We’ve worked with over 17,000 professionals through our training for organisations and professionals, providing tailored training packages for a variety of organisations. Meanwhile our Understanding Dementia Better and Mood and Motivation training is delivered free to family and friends of people living with dementia. This enables us to offer practical support to carers all over the world via our online sessions.

Dementia Adventure Today

I remember 10 years ago when we started in the spare room at my Mum and Dad’s house,” Neil recalled before he and Lucy retired from Dementia Adventure in 2019. “The kids banging on the door, ‘Daddy! Daddy!’, and me taking phone calls. Our toddlers are now 5 ft 10’’ and I guess Dementia Adventure is as well.”

Dementia Adventure is now an organisation comprising a Board of Trustees, 22 members of staff, and a dedicated base of over 100 volunteers. Though Neil and Lucy have moved on to the next stage of their life, the spirit with which they set up Dementia Adventure informs everything we do, and our mission has stayed the same: To support people with dementia to get outdoors and experience the benefits of nature, creating a world where everyone living with dementia can share enjoy an active and fulfilled life.

Founders Neil and Lucy, a heterosexual couple in formal wear standing beside each other and smiling.

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