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Marina Glasgow: Reducing the risk of dementia - let's all do what we can

Thursday 20 September 2018

Marina Glasgow discusses how we can reduce the risk of dementia.

Marina Glasgow

Marina Glasgow

Acas Area Director.

Marina has for a number of years taken a lead role in promoting the Acas agenda around better management of mental ill health at work.

I had a big birthday last year, and at the time I wasn't too bothered by it. I have a great job, a wonderful family and am generally fit and well. Ok, I carry a few extra pounds round my middle but who doesn't at my age, and my hairdresser can always sort out those sparkly little highlights in my hair...

But as the months since my birthday have passed I've reflected more on my age. Am I old? How do others see me? How long will I be able to keep working? I still feel 25, even if the mirror tells me different.

In 2011 the removal of the default retirement age took away the requirement to leave the workplace at a certain age, and it appears to have had a slow, steady and positive impact for those who want to keep working:

• Two thirds of over 50's are planning a later retirement (BBC)
• Just under 1.2 million people over the age of 65 are in work - or 10.2% of the entire age group (ONS Dec 2017 to Feb 2018)

This paints a very positive image of a silver haired, productive workforce, happily continuing to share their knowledge and skills for the benefit of themselves, their employers and society at large. I felt happy to be part of that picture.

Then in June this year the NHS announced that it was including advice on dementia in health checks for the over 40's. That pulled me up short. 40? That's still young, or at least a good deal younger than me!

Dementia is what very old people suffer from, isn't it? Apparently not. Public Health England estimate there are around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. Although there is no cure dementia is not an inevitable part of ageing, and you can take positive action to minimise some of the potential risks.

I've done my research. Taking better care of my ageing body (and brain) - by keeping an eye on my diet, being sensible about my alcohol intake, and managing my stress levels - could be the key to helping me, and my brain, age better. And a bit more exercise to shift those extra pounds won't hurt either. So I've signed up with the NHS couch to 5K challenge, and booked myself one of those NHS health checks.

But let's be clear, there are going to be increasing numbers of people who will work, and work very well, with some form of dementia (18 per cent of people diagnosed with dementia under the age of 65 continue to work after a diagnosis). Add to these people the army of carers who provide vital support and it is clearly a pressing workplace issue that employers and line managers need to be thinking about.

Dementia is one of the main causes of disability later in life, ahead of cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke. As a disability, employees are protected from discrimination under The Equality Act 2010. But it shouldn't just come down to employment rights. As the visual above shows, loneliness is one of the risk factors most associated with dementia. And nothing provides companionship and company for many people more than the shared routine and interest of work. So let's all do what we can to look after ourselves and those around us.

GOV: Reducing the risk of dementia

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