Metal Detectorist Inspires Care

29th January 2018 — 14 Comments

How the hobby of metal detecting can improve the quality of life and care for dementia patients

The Alzheimer’s Association suggests 101 activities for dementia patients ranging from tending to the garden, taking pictures and making music. All of these pursuits are designed to lead to a better quality of life. They help to encourage self-expression, stir memories, foster emotional connections with others and make patients feel more engaged with day-to-day living.

Gary and Lee

But I bet they have yet to cotton on to the innovative and unique activity taking place at Bodlondeb, Pendine Park’s specialist dementia centre of excellence in Wrexham, North Wales.

There are many people out there doing sterling work in the local community and this latest initiative is the brainchild of detectorist and Senior Care Practitioner at the centre, detectorist Lee Swallow. This delightful story could be number 102 on that list!

Lee has been detecting since 2004 and working with dementia patients for seven years. As a child he was always interested in history and archaeology and he remembers beachcombing with his grandfather. When he grew older and discovered detecting he purchased a Garrett Ace 250. Now he uses a Garrett AT Pro and that first machine he bought is now a ‘spare’ used by patients.

Pendine adapts activities around the individual and, as Lee explained to me, there are some residents who don’t want to sit around listening to Vera Lynn records or knitting scarves. Like Gary and John.

Gary, 52, was introduced to the hobby by Lee and has discovered Civil War musket shot and other artefacts after taking up the hobby. He says that he gets a great deal from the detecting sessions and his aim is to find a gold sovereign or a Roman coin. Let’s hope that his dream comes true one day!

Gary said, “I’ve been a resident at Bodlondeb for more than two years now and detecting has given me a new interest. It’s something I really enjoy! It’s good of Lee to let me use his spare detector. Taking part in the hobby has given me a new lease of life!’

John Kaye catalogues the finds

John Kay, 74, a former history teacher, catalogues the finds and cleans the coins and artefacts. He has an excellent long-term memory and can often say exactly what he was doing and the big news stories of the day just by looking at the date on a thrupenny bit!”

He continued, “I catalogue the coins in date order. There are so many we don’t use anymore, like the big old pennies.” He added, “I used to teach history to primary school children and these coins and other artefacts would have been something wonderful to show them. I always look forward to seeing the interesting and fascinating finds.”

Lee is glad that Gary and John derive so much pleasure out of their new hobby and the finds that are made. “It has really given them an extra interest and it’s also excellent exercise for Gary … and it gets him outdoors, he commented.


The detectorists have permission from Pendine Park’s owners Gill and Mario Kreft to search the extensive 86-acre site … avoiding landscaped areas, of course. During the course of our conversation Lee told me that they had ‘hardly scratched the surface” of land to be explored and that it will, “take years to explore properly”. They were also looking forward to taking a trip down to the local beach when maybe a few of the other residents can come along and watch what they get up to!

But what the guys would eventually like to do is put on a display of all the items they have found, including a bracelet and a gold coin.

Bodlondeb manager Ann Chapman said, “Metal detecting has given two residents a new interest and something they have to think about. Both Gary and John clearly get a great deal out of their new hobby and Lee’s efforts are to be applauded.”

“Being in a care home isn’t about sitting staring at a television all day. It’s about new experiences and trying new things and encouraging new interests. I’m amazed at the finds Lee and Gary have made and John has done an amazing job in cataloguing and cleaning all the old coins.”

She added, “While their finds so far are of little monetary value they mean a huge amount to Gary and John and that’s what’s important. I hope one day they find the gold coin they are hoping for. That really would be amazing.”

More Finds


Lee hopes that this story proves to be interesting to all readers even though it isn’t about another golden hoard of unimaginable splendour. “It’s just another part of what we are about. And that’s helping other people and telling the world of all the good things we do!”

Lee tells me that he is saving for another machine to enable another resident to join them in future forays within the grounds of Summerhill where the Pendine site is situated.


After reading the above those lovely people at Garrett donated two Ace 250’s and two Pro-pointers to the dementia centre. What a fine gesture! The proprietors of Pendine Park, Mario and Gill Kreft, said that they were “absolutely thrilled.”

I hope Lee keeps me informed with any future developments and discoveries for I’ve lost contact with him …


This has been adapted from an article that originally appeared in The Searcher magazine



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14 responses to Metal Detectorist Inspires Care

  1. “some residents who don’t want to sit around listening to Vera Lynn records” Oh how well I remember those from my parents days of playing them. I must have turned into my father because i really enjoy them now.. LOL

    And 86 acres is a huge amount of area to check out.. they will have places for a couple of decades to come.

    Thank you for this story John.. Very inspiring indeed.



  2. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 29th January 2018 at 1:50 AM

    This is more than a fantastic story about metal detecting, but a fantastic story of human empathy and a generous donation of time by many people.

    First class all the way, and even nicer to see that Garrett has offered up some unsolicited free material.

    Making your brain work is a great way to help slow the effects of dementia, so I’m hoping this works out well for all involved.

    What a nice story to read.

  3. This is a wonderful story for sure.

  4. Good news all round.Well done to all concerned.

  5. Thank you for all your kind remarks.

  6. Did you come across this story John or was Mrs. W. doing research of different homes?

  7. very uplifting tale, considering the explosion of dementia occurring in North America. Thanks, John.

  8. John that really was a wonderful write up

  9. Marvellous stuff! Swapping Vera Lynn records for the archaeological record… Who could possibly disagree..? Great story John! Cheers!

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