Former RAF aircraftman from Yorkshire dies aged 52 after six-year battle with early onset dementia

Paul Higgins was a fit, active, fun-loving family man who was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 46.

Dementia is often considered something that only affects older people, but in the UK there are approximately 42,000 people under the age of 65 living with what is referred to as young onset dementia.

As Paul was to learn, it is not always easy to spot the signs and is often misdiagnosed. At first Scarborough-based Paul was told he had depression.

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However, when the medication did not halt the symptoms, he fought for the correct diagnosis; the first of many campaigns he threw himself into in the following years.

Paul HigginsPaul Higgins
Paul Higgins

According to local volunteer Tim Kirkup who was a friend and supporter for Paul, "he rose to the challenge of his dementia diagnosis with dignity, laughter and his get-on-with-life attitude".

He took advantage of every opportunity and didn’t let dementia stop him engaging in swimming, cycling, football and all manner of activities, with the support of family, friends and local community organisations.

Paul’s mum, Shelagh, moved to Scarborough to support her son, who had been a senior aircraftman in the RAF and was working for local firm Raflatac at the time of his diagnosis.

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He became a dementia ambassador, learning all he could about his condition, and together he and Shelagh travelled the country attending conferences, taking part in research opportunities and raising awareness.

Paul and his mum campaigned for younger people with dementia to be entitled to a Blue Badge, and played a big part in local charity Dementia Forward’s successful National Lottery Community Fund bid to develop their young onset service.

The charity now has weekly young onset groups in Scarborough, York and Harrogate, which spend days out in the community, either walking, experiencing new challenges or visiting venues of interest, and are a life-line to the people who attend.

Paul died on December 19 2021 at the age of 52.

His friends and family said he touched so many lives, and his memory will live on in the family he was devoted to, the friends he shared so many happy times with, and the organisations and other individuals living with dementia that he supported following his diagnosis.

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His family were overwhelmed by the number of people who attended his funeral and sent their best wishes.

A collection at the funeral raised over £750 for Dementia Forward.

The charity is committed to continuing the campaign to raise awareness of young onset dementia and the need for specialist services.

If you would like to make a donation, please call or visit the website

If you or someone you know is affected by dementia and would benefit from free, confidential advice and support,

Dementia Forward’s Helpline is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm on 03300 578592.