After a lifetime travelling the world and taking part in dirt bike competitions, Jim and Dot’s family hoped that, as they both approach their 80th birthdays, they might start to slow down.
Instead the adventurous couple, who’ve been married for fifty-seven years, decided they would celebrate becoming octogenarians by flying themselves around the world in a single engine light aircraft.
‘The idea of flying around the world is something we’ve had for many years, ever since Jim qualified as a pilot,’ says Dot who will be navigating the trip.
But their decision to use the trip to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society, came later… when Dot’s sister-in-law was diagnosed with dementia. ‘I was adopted at birth and didn’t even meet my brother and his wife until I was 70,’ Dot explains. ‘When she was diagnosed with dementia a couple of years later it was so sad, we’ve just watched her disappear whilst my brother cares for her. It’s a terrible thing. It made us realise that dementia affects so many people’s lives and NHS resources are stretched to the limit.’
Businesses that want to support the couple can have their company name or logo on the aircraft provided they make a donation to Around the World at 80. Dot and Jim hope that corporate donors will recognise the commercial benefits of supporting their circumnavigation and identify with the moral cause. Anyone else, particularly those with personal experience of dementia, can have their name put on the plane by making a donation, the minimum is £10.
‘We haven’t set a specific target, we just want to raise as much as we possibly can,’ says Dot. ‘We’re both very grateful to still be healthy enough to take this on, though if someone offered a lot of money I might consider stepping out of the plane and letting them take the navigation seat! Mind you, it would have to be someone who doesn’t mind being squashed up – there’s less room than in a car – and who could put up with Jim for 40 days…!’
Joking aside, Dot and Jim are clearly determined to pull-off their extraordinary trip and raise as much money as possible. If all goes to plan, they will be setting off later this year, after Jim’s 80th birthday.
Having already circumnavigated the globe in a campervan (which took seven years and involved visiting 53 countries, including crime-filled El Salvador and Nicaragua) Dot and Jim aren’t too worried about what they might face. ‘Being up in the air is less daunting than being down on the ground,’ says Dot. ‘China is going to be quite exciting, Russia might be tricky, but I don’t think trouble will affect us as we’ll be a long, long way away from Moscow.
‘I will have to learn all about this new complex navigation system that modern planes have – I can’t just go with a compass and a map now – but it’s no good learning that until just before we go because I might forget it all! Fortunately, however, I’m one of those aggravating people who always know where they are…’