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13 January 2020

Sir Jackie Stewart F1 Legend talks dementia

Formula 1's ability to find quick solutions is hastening the race to find a cure for dementia, believes three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart.
Coate Water Care director & motorsport enthusiast Jamie Smith poses for a photo with Motorsport Legend, three time world champion, Sir Jackie Stewart after their chat at Silverstone F1 circuit.

The 80-year-old Scot set up the Race Against Dementia charity in 2018, two years after his wife, Lady Helen, was diagnosed with the disease.

Stewart's organisation has given PhD students Formula 1 team experience.

"Our PhDs go to Red Bull and McLaren and see how things are done more quickly," he told BBC Scotland.

Stewart's wife has limited short-term memory and impaired mobility, requiring round-the-clock care, and he had become dismayed at the speed of progress in medical research.

"For 30 years, billions have been spent to try and get a cure for dementia and it's failed, not only for preventive medicine but for corrective medicine," he told BBC Sunday Sportsound.

"That's simply unacceptable in today's world in my opinion. We've got to do it a different way.

"The systems are different in F1, the motivation is faster, the fear of being beaten is absolutely amazing. I think we're going in the right direction in that respect."

Race Against Dementia has placed PhD students around the world, including America, China and Scotland.

"I've found the medical research area had nothing like the focus, the commitment and the drive that we see in Formula 1," Stewart said.

"Problem solving in Formula 1 is faster than any other activity in the world, including aerospace.

"If we can get a new generation and culture of doing things in a faster way, we've got a better chance of finding new ways of doing things."

Stewart was also a champion at clay pigeon shooting and is still involved in F1 sponsorship, but admits: "Helen's challenge for me now is the biggest one I've ever faced."

"Helen and I have been married for coming up to 58 years," he said. "She was my time keeper, my lap charter as well as being the mother of two very successful young men and we have nine grandchildren.

"We're a very close family, so it hurts very badly when you see someone being affected to the extent that dementia provides.

"We're very lucky because of my sport I can afford what most people can't. We've got seven neuro nurses working with us, only two at a time but 24 hours a day and we're able to have Helen at home.

"It's a terrible illness. More people die of dementia than any other illness in the world and it's the most costly because people live to a longer age."
Sir Jackie Stewart

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