Karen Meenan says we all need to focus more on brain health. She has interviewed over 100 guests on this and related subjects as an amateur radio host with Near FM.

Following in my RTÉ father’s footsteps


My interest in dementia-inclusive radio stems from both my parents.  My dad Gerry Tierney worked in RTE at the weekend as a radio presenter in the 1970s while keeping down the day job as a civil servant during the week. He died very suddenly from a massive heart attack when I was thirteen years old.

Many years later, my mother Kathleen Tierney was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease – she died in 2016 almost reaching her 90th birthday.

Upon clearing out the attic of our family home we found the long forgotten Grundig tape recorder and BASF reel-to-reel tapes which were a part of our bittersweet childhood, I felt the urge to learn how to be a radio presenter.

NearFM in Coolock on Dublin’s northside offered a course for people interested in radio, and so having spent a lifetime admiring presenters like Marian Finucane and Olivia O’Leary, I figured the time was right to learn how to share the wonderful world of dementia on the airwaves.

My first series ‘Reminiscence on the Radio’ is specifically designed to spark memories for our older listeners – a reeling in the years on the radio if you like! This is a combination of news clippings, songs from that year, Eurovision and Oscar winners, sports highlights and of course stories from our special guests who remember what life was really like back in the ‘50s and ‘60s.  Many of my guests have dementia, but you wouldn’t know which ones – everyone remembers the stories of their youth!

The next series ‘Voyage Around my Brain’ is a conversation with people from the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) who have studied the brain and its complexity. They are joined in the studio by people living with dementia and/or their caregivers. The format is similar – each guest chooses a song and recites a poem for listeners, while the chat is about dementia. The format aims to remove some of the stigma about living with this disease.

‘Talkin’ About Neurodegeneration’ is a closer look at the different types of dementia, again using the same format of special guests choosing the playlist and reciting their favourite poems for our listeners.

We have brilliant programmes about Alzheimer’s Disease, Lewy Body Disease, Young Onset Dementia, Vascular Dementia, Multiple System Atrophy, Primary Progressive Aphasia, depression, anxiety, mental health, sensory impairment (hearing and sight loss) and one on communication – how we talk about dementia.

Many people have been diagnosed with dementia or ‘a touch of dementia’ without being told what type or what stage. Imagine being told you had cancer or ‘a touch of cancer’ without being told what type or what stage?

I’m now producing a fourth series called ‘Atlantic, Pacific and Beyond’ looking at global equity, health equity, economic equity, race equity and brain health equity. If you have an interesting story to share about living with dementia, or would like to learn more about brain health, please contact me.

To contact Karen – and she says she’d love to hear from readers – email: karen.meenan@gbhi.org

Read more about Karen’s interests, get links to her podcasts and much more here: https://www.gbhi.org/news-publications/dementia-inclusive-radio