The award-winning charity Reminiscence Learning, now located in Wellington, has launched a wide-ranging initiative to make the whole community more aware and supportive of dementia. In the first gathering of a steering committee comprising members of local businesses, social and care services and community organisations, Fiona Mahoney, Chief Executive of Reminiscence Learning, set out the aims of the committee and the initiatives that are intended “to ultimately make Wellington dementia friendly and create a blueprint that is easily transferable to other towns and villages”.
Taunton Deane is supporting, providing funding and monitoring Reminiscence Learning’s initiatives which already include the ground-breaking intergenerational Archie Project which aims to make children more aware of the feelings of people living with dementia. Local schools are linked with special units in care homes to encourage greater understanding of a condition which already affects more than 9,000 people in Somerset, a figure due to rise to 11,000 over the next 5 years.
From its new home in Tonedale’s historic Counting House the steering committee was introduced to plans already in place for Dementia Awareness Week from 16th to 22nd May. These include a wide-ranging programme of activities – including singing with the Land Girls and cycling with Archie -, informative sessions for those interested in learning more about dementia, a multi-sensory musical experience and a tea dance taster session which aims to take participants “back to an age of elegance”. Friday 22nd May is designated “Archie’s Red and Yellow Day”. Reminiscence Learning’s mascot, Archie, is dressed in red and yellow, chosen as being the last colours to fail in the ageing eye. It is hoped that local businesses and organisations will be involved, raising funds for Archie projects, carers’ groups and dementia awareness training. Ideas include face-painting, fancy-dress competitions, sporting challenges and cake sales. It is hoped that Archie’s Red and Yellow Day will become an annual event.
Fiona Mahoney said, “Our aim is make Wellington dementia-friendly but the project is about inclusivity and if villages are not included we are isolating people. We want to establish a dementia-aware intergenerational community and transfer our 5 year community project – Music and Memories – in Bristol to Wellington. We’d like to run courses and activities here at the Counting House involving people with dementia and their carers, and establish Reminiscence Groups and dementia awareness training for students.” Other ideas include developing partnerships with secondary schools’ drama and music departments and creating a permanent piece of artwork created by school children and residents of care homes to be displayed centrally in the town. She added, “A regular monthly update of activities and information will be published in the Wellington Weekly to keep the community informed, and support and advice will be offered to businesses to make them dementia friendly.”
As a result of the work the charity has already undertaken in both Taunton Deane and Bristol, it has been recognised by the Alzheimer’s Society and has won Somerset Business, Dementia Care and Great British Care Awards.