Charlie with his arm round his grandad. Both of them are smiling.

Taking on Trek26 for my gramps and everyone affected by dementia

Charlie Gibson and his grandad Barry became an international TikTok sensation when Charlie shared videos of gramps enjoying music and football. Charlie tells us about the special relationship they share and why he's participating in Trek26 this year.

Gramps was very much my father figure growing up. I was born in London but moved to Manchester when I was six. From what I can first remember, my grandad took me to football. He was always there with me through the love of sport that he had.

Spending time with my Gramps

He got me into sport from supporting Manchester City through to playing tennis, playing golf, you name it. We were always doing sports together, and at the same time, we would always be watching football at the weekends, and he used to take me to a lot of City games as well. 

I can really remember spending a lot of quality time with him as a boy and then through to becoming an adult. As I got older, he would take me to activities such as running - I used to be a sprinter. So, as you can see, there's a real bond that we always had.

As I got older, grew up and moved back down to London, our relationship changed. We were still obviously close and we'd spend Christmases and valuable time with each other, but just not as much, but those are some of my favourite moments. 

Bonding through sport

We always had that bond through sport and I just felt like I could always talk to him. He was almost my best friend in a way, as well as that father figure. I was always chatting to him and he was a role model.  

That still stands today. We just have a bond and an understanding between each other that really no one else understands. And we just know that despite dementia, everything's sort of all right in his world now, which is really special.

Charlie with his arm round his grandad at the football

Noticing signs of his dementia

I was in my early 20s when I realised that my granddad had dementia, probably nine or 10 years ago now. I didn't really understand dementia, apart from that his memory was kind of going and that he was working on it.

I remember my granddad saying what he was trying to do to sort of slow dementia down. He's a very intelligent man, so he was trying to look at different ways - from diet to doing Sudoku.

I didn't really understand it at that point. I don't think the knowledge was out there that there is today. Of course, there was sadness and I was wondering ‘what does this mean’, but it didn’t really kick in and I didn’t realise the impact it had for him.

Over the years there’s pain that you go through, seeing that person go through it as they've struggled, you take that effect as well as a family.

Coming to terms with granddad's dementia

I think the hardest stage about his dementia is seeing him upset and accepting that he's not aware of where he is or who he is. It's hard to see him not really having any control of who he is - from bodily functions to his mood swings. That’s just tough to see because you just want him to essentially be like anyone - to be happy on a day-to-day basis. But he is still happy in his own little world.

It takes a lot to see him because it's the effect that it has on you. But at the same time, sometimes he surprises me and I can have the best feeling after seeing him. And he still seems to have fun and smile and connect with his music and still have the occasional chat about football too.

Becoming a TikTok star

He sadly doesn't really understand becoming an international superstar. He is a celebrity. I remember the first time when my video of him at that City game - when he really went viral with millions of views - people stopping in the street to say hello and he really wasn't aware of it.  

He was of the generation that didn't really understand technology or use mobile phones, so for him to understand that he's a TikTok superstar, it’s speaking a completely different language. But I think that makes it just that bit more special that people are friendly to him, and he rides off people's energy. It's been amazing to see the reception that he's got from people. He's one in a million.

Charlie and his gramps with the trophies from man city's treble winning season

Dementia doesn't stop us enjoying life

Dementia has definitely brought us closer. I think that's clear for everyone to see, because I know what he loves and enjoys, from music to football, we've gone and made sure to enjoy every little moment of life. It's a massive cliché, but it's so true when it comes to dementia.

We've had the best time, and I think that's why so many people connect with it, because it's become so positive through what we've done together. It's been really special, and I honestly wouldn't change it for the world.

Charlie and Sophie arm in arm wearing 'Alzheimer's Society' shirts

Raising money for people affected by dementia

Since me and Gramps first began creating videos together, I’ve been blown away by the amount of responses and it’s opened my eyes to just how many people know someone who’s been affected by dementia in some way.

That’s why myself, and my girlfriend Sophie, are taking on Alzheimer’s Society’s Trek26 in the Lake District this June and would love all the support we can get. We want to raise £10K to make sure no one faces dementia alone.

Take part in Trek26

Take on an epic 26 or 13 mile trek in one of 10 breath-taking locations across the UK. You'll join thousands of others who are also trekking for better days ahead. It'll be tough, but we know you have got what it takes!

Learn more


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