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Boogie in the Bar: How Disco lights and music can help bring back memories of the good old days

Bill and Anne Duncan (Kenny Elrick)
Bill and Anne Duncan (Kenny Elrick)

AS Anne and Bill Duncan danced the night away at a birthday party, she couldn’t help but see the joy it brought to her husband.

The Aberdeen couple have always loved dancing and, although a lot has changed since Bill’s Alzheimer diagnosis in January 2011, their love of music hasn’t.

“We might no longer have the moves, but we can still dance and doing so transports Bill,” explained Anne. “It was great to see him with a smile on his face and if he’s happy, I’m happy.”

It made Anne think it was something they should do more often and rather than wait for the next big birthday party or wedding, she began making plans to organise something more regular that like-minded people could benefit from.

She got talking to staff at Sport Aberdeen while Bill, a much-loved former entertainer and magician, was taking part in a keep-fit activity and mentioned her idea.

“I was asked if there was anything else we would enjoy doing and I mentioned dancing,” Anne continued. “She said there were tea dances, but I laughed and asked if we looked like we go to tea dances. At the time Bill was 69 and I was 63, and I said we wanted to disco dance.”

That set the wheels in motion and a number of organisations came together, including Sport Aberdeen, The Wellbeing Team, Aberdeen Football Club Community Trust and Alzheimer Scotland. Within a couple of months, Boogie in the Bar was a reality.

Boogie at the Bar

Held on the third Friday of every month at The Foundry Bar in Aberdeen from 12-4pm, it’s proved a huge success and not just within the dementia community.

“I explained my vision was that there would be brilliant music, alcohol and people from all walks of life. We want to feel normal and mix with everyone. The Foundry staff were dementia-friendly trained, which was great.

“The first one was last March and had a surprisingly good turnout.

“We have a great mix of people and it brings so much pleasure to so many.”

A year down the line, more events under the Boogie in the Bar banner are popping up across the north east – and hopefully further afield in time.

Its success was underlined when it won the best community support initiative at Scotland’s Dementia Awards last autumn, thanks to the collaboration between The Active Aberdeen Partnership, The Foundry, Aberdeen Health and Social Care Partnership, Alzheimer Scotland and M&S Bank.

Anne added: “We didn’t think for a second we would win as it had only been going six months.

“Seeing Bill’s reaction was truly wonderful and a moment to cherish.

“When the music started he got up and began dancing.

“We ended up all dancing on stage while everyone clapped along.”

VIDEO: Meet the winners from Scotland’s Dementia Awards 2017

Jenny McCann, from Sport Aberdeen, said: “When we held the first Boogie event, we were worried that no one would turn up.

“When nearly 100 people came through the door on that first night and filled the dance floor, we realised we had come up with something special.

“We were so chuffed to be shortlisted and winning was the icing on the cake.”

Scotland’s Dementia Awards are a partnership between Alzheimer Scotland, NHS Education for Scotland and the Scottish Social Services Council, and recognises, promotes and celebrates the inspirational achievements of those making a difference in supporting people affected by dementia.

This is its seventh year and professionals and the public have the chance to nominate dementia projects in six different categories.

Entries can be submitted until June 8, with the awards taking place in Glasgow on September 20.

Also among the winners last year was NHS Forth Valley, which claimed best acute care initiative after drastically reducing the number of late patient transfers.

Henry Simmons, Alzheimer Scotland’s chief executive, said: “It has been a huge privilege to work with our partners over the last six years to deliver Scotland’s Dementia Awards.

“I am extremely proud that we have been able to showcase some of the wonderful approaches to care and support being pioneered here in Scotland and celebrate the dedication of those who work tirelessly to support people living with dementia.

“We hope that 2018 will be a great success and we invite people from all sectors to help us shine the spotlight on Scotland’s best dementia projects and practice.”

To nominate, go to sda.alzscot.org