Dementia patient inspires Alpheton artist's 745-mile cycling fundraiser in aid of Alzheimer's Research UK
An artist has been inspired to raise awareness about dementia after focusing on a recent project which depicted a woman affected by the progressive brain condition.
Mark Turnbull, from Alpheton, was commissioned to paint a portrait of his client’s parents from a photograph.
Having been told that the woman had suffered from dementia, Mr Turnbull said he was left deeply saddened by the condition, which can cause devastating symptoms, including memory loss and confusion.
“It affected me a lot,” said the 48-year-old, who, despite not knowing the woman, had formed a close bond with her while working on the project.
“It made it a bit more personal for me, because I felt like I knew her through painting the portrait and speaking to her son – and that’s what brought it to the forefront for me.”
Around 850,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia, with every one in 14 people over the age of 65 having been affected by the condition.
Reflecting on the long-term impact that the brain disorder can have on a person’s quality of life, Mr Turnbull said: “It made me fearful about developing it myself, and it’s made me think about my elderly family members, too.”
Keen to play an active role in preventing the illness from affecting further people, Mr Turnbull has embarked on a 745-mile fundraising bike ride hosted by Alzheimer’s Research UK, a charity dedicated to funding life-changing treatment for dementia sufferers.
As part of the Summer Cycling Down Dementia challenge, participants have between April and August to complete their target goals.
Determined to succeed, Mr Turnbull is aiming to cycle around 15 miles each day, which he will split between a bike ride from Alpheton to Great Waldingfield, and a further session on his exercise bike at home in Little Hastings.
“I started cycling seriously three months ago, as well as my own training,” said Mr Turnbull, who has practised weight training for the past 15 years.
“I don’t personally enjoy it, but I started doing it to build muscle.”
Having originally taken up the hobby to boost his self-confidence, Mr Turnbull now exercises regularly to maintain a high level of fitness.
During his cycling challenge, Mr Turnbull hopes to highlight the importance of adopting a healthy and balanced diet to help reduce the risk of developing dementia.
“I’m trying to get people to become more healthy,” he said.
While vital research continues into successfully preventative techniques, key findings have proven that a healthy lifestyle can help to combat the condition in older people, as well as other life-threatening conditions, including cardiovascular diseases such as a stroke or heart attack.
Friends and family have pledged their support to Mr Turnbull’s cause, which has helped to spur him on.
“They think its a great idea,” he said.
Having worked as a counsellor in hypnotherapy, Mr Turnbull made the bold decision to change careers and work as a professional artist.
“I wanted a change of direction,” he explained. “So I decided to give up counselling five years ago.
“I had been fairly good at art, but I hadn’t done any for 20 years. I practised more and more, then I got my first commission.”
As a student at Sudbury Upper School, Mr Turnbull created a series of pencil sketches, which he sold to his friends.
The quaintness of Cavendish, where he grew up, providedinspiration for his drawings.
“There’s a typical post card scene of the village green with pink cottages which I sketched,” he said.
Since taking up art full-time, Mr Turnbull has been focusing on portraits and landscapes.
To make a donation, go online to cycle.thetreblechallenge.org/pages/mark-s-challenge.
More by this authorPriya Kingsley-Adam
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