Thousands of people are expected in South Tyneside tomorrow to take part in the annual Memory Walk to unite against dementia.
Organised by the Alzheimer’s Society, this year’s walk looks set to be the biggest one yet, with more than 4,500 people taking part.
Participants will pay tribute to loved ones who have battled the condition and those living with it by completing a 7km or 1.5km walk from Bents Park, South Shields, before following a breathtaking coastal route.
Starting at 11am, the walk will be officially launched by South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.
She will then join walkers to pay tribute to her grandmother, Eleanor Lewell, who passed away in 2003, aged 85, after battling dementia.
Ms Lewell-Buck said: “Watching my gran struggle with dementia was very difficult.
“It felt like she was disappearing before my eyes.
“In the end, she became a mere shell of the woman she once was.
“Dementia affects everyone differently. I understand that. But in my gran’s case the deterioration was rapid.
“She stopped doing the things she used to enjoy and became tearful and distressed a lot of the time. “Sometimes she’d look right through you as if you weren’t there. It was really strange and terribly sad.”
Alzheimer’s Society research shows 850,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, about 35,000 of them in the North East.
The MP added: “I’m thrilled to be officially launching the North East’s biggest-ever Memory Walk.
“The route looks stunning and I’m sure it’s going to be a very special day for all concerned.”
Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk Officer Rebecca Scott said it was delighted with the large numbers taking part in this year’s event.
She said: “We’ve been blown away by the numbers this year.
“Last year we had around 2,500 which was a record in itself, but this year we’ve almost doubled that, which is amazing.”