They weren’t playing for the national championship, but for a group of young women at Kooyonga this week, the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Golf Open will always be special.
A golf group for women living with younger onset dementia took part in a clinic during Open week in Adelaide.
ACH Group’s Swing Fit Ladies’ Golf Group was invited to be part of a clinic run by Golf Australia’s national inclusion manager and 2017 PGA Australian Teacher of the Year Christian Hamilton and Anne-Marie Knight, both qualified PGA All Abilities coaches.
Joining the group were members of Soldier On, an organisation for returned servicemen and women and other security agencies.
Anne Marie Knight, PGA Academy Coach at Adelaide Shores Golf Academy, has coached the group for the past 12 months.
“This program has really turned lives around – it gives these women the chance to get out and socialise with others who are in the same situation, to be physically active and challenge themselves,” she said. “These women now have a group of friends they can call on for support.”
She said golf was a game that was well suited to all skill levels. “Anyone can participate in golf because it’s not too physically demanding. It’s a walk in the fresh air; we go out and have fun and then sit down and have a coffee. You don’t have to become a champion golfer; it’s about enjoyment and social stimulation.”
Group member Lee Martin, diagnosed with dementia two years ago at the age of 57, says she has loved being part of the group. “I hadn’t played golf for years but it didn’t matter,” she said. “We all have so much fun; we don’t take ourselves seriously and we’re all really good mates.”
The Swing Fit Ladies’ Golf Group is part of ACH Group’s Tailor Made Project, established in 2015 as a new respite model for younger people living with dementia, their families and carers.
The project has also supported photography, walking and computing groups.
Younger onset dementia is a condition that occurs in people under 65 years old.
“Research tells us that it is possible to live well beyond the diagnosis of dementia. We believe that people should be supported to continue to do the things they have always done as well as have the opportunity to try new things, stay connected and engaged,” said ACH Group dementia expert Teresa Moran.
There are about 2500 people living with younger onset dementia in South Australia. According to Dementia Australia, the number of people living with younger onset dementia in Australia will rise to 42,250 by 2056.