The motorsport legend has invited Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to visit the McLaren racing team to help in the fight against the devastating illness. Sir Jackie, whose wife, Lady Helen, was diagnosed with dementia in 2014, is frustrated with the pace of progress in the search for better treatments. He believes politicians and researchers could learn from “the energy, the urgency and the need for change” in the world of Formula 1.
The 80-year-old, who comes from Dumbarton, won the world championship three times. He said: “I’m taking the Minister of Health on October 10 to the McLaren Formula 1 team.
“I believe that once she has seen a Formula 1 factory and garage, she’ll be taken aback as to the way they operate.
“I’m a big fan of your First Minister. I think she’s a good, fast moving lady. I think it’s difficult to get politicians generally to move quickly.
“Now Scotland is a good example, Scotland’s health is run well. But here we have an illness that the establishment is unable, currently, to cure and that’s costing the government more money than cancer and heart disease put together. They have been doing it the same way for far too long.”
The father-of-two, who also has nine grandchildren, launched his own charity, Race Against Dementia, last year to dramatically shake up the approach to research.
Sir Jackie continued: “When you see it up close and personal with your own family, suddenly you realise the depth, the amount of time, the commitment, the cost, the disruption to a family and their home.
“That drove me to say, why for 30 years with billions spent to try and find not only a cure but, more importantly perhaps, preventative medicine for dementia, why has it been allowed to go on for this long. Surely we have to do something about it?”
He praised campaigns such as the Scottish Daily Express’s Keep It In Mind for raising further awareness and putting added pressure on governments.
His own charity takes inspiration from Formula 1, which he says has a “faster form of problem solving” than any other business.
He plans to fund research into dementia by some of the brightest young scientists, adopting the rigorous discipline and cutting edge thinking from motor racing.
Sir Jackie said: “We’ll have to get them into an environment that is different. I can’t have them continue in the same frame of mind as they have been educated by that older generation. So we send all of them to Formula 1 factories, to McLaren and Red Bull. They will see the systems working in a different way. I want to take these PhDs to a Grand Prix to let them see the energy, the urgency and the need for change because we can’t accept that what we have today is good enough.”
Sir Jackie, who admitted his wife of 56 years had deteriorated further, said: “I’m putting more into this than in anything else in my life.
“It’s the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “I am hugely grateful to Sir Jackie Stewart for his dedication to supporting research. Research is essential to fully understand the causes of dementia and make advances in prevention. I very much look forward to working with him to discuss what more we can do.”