Wellesley Park Primary School’s choir sang to Angela Rippon at the launch of the latest phase of Reminiscence Learning’s groundbreaking ‘Archie Project’ at the County Ground in Taunton. Before a large invited audience that included the broadcaster and journalist who is Archie’s patron, the children sang ‘Colourful Archie’, a song specially written for the project. Class teacher Fiona Doidge and pupils Joseph Weston, Harry Jennings, Aimee Alexander and Elena Booker talked to the audience about their personal involvement in the dementia awareness project at Wellesley Park last year, their contact with residents at Oaktree Court and Popham Court Residential Homes and the knowledge, insight and friendships resulting from it.
Wellesley Park was one of the first schools to become involved in a project which has been introduced in 20 Somerset schools and others in Norfolk, Belfast and Cornwall. Reminiscence Learning (RL) has received awards from the Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia Care in 2014 and was a national finalist in the Great British Care Awards in 2013. It was named Charity of the Year in the Somerset Business Awards last year.
The roll-out of Reminiscence Learning’s Archie Project in 8 Taunton primary schools, each of them linked with a partner care home, is the latest phase in a campaign to encourage communities to become more aware and understanding of dementia and its effects. With its cheerful Archie the Scarecrow mascot, RL introduces the project to young people through a range of interactive activities to illustrate Archie’s story. Their link with care homes and sheltered housing is designed to inspire greater understanding and dispel the stigma and fear associated with dementia.
In the launch event attended by Mayor Dave Durdan and representatives from Taunton Deane Borough Council, schools, care homes, sheltered housing projects and the business community, Angela Rippon talked about her personal experience of dementia and the consequences on her family of her own mother’s illness. She spoke of the “sharp learning curve” which led her to become an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society. She referred to the ‘“ticking time-bomb existing in a society with an aging population, in which 1 out of 3 people will die of some form of dementia. It is no exaggeration to say that it is one of the greatest social and medical challenges of the 21st century – and one that requires a whole community response.”
She paid particular tribute to the work done to create dementia-friendly communities, the way recognition of the need is spreading nationwide and how developments in training, support and education are progressing. Referring specifically to work done in schools she said, “We have to get children on board. We have to build a dementia-friendly generation, one which understands the word ‘dementia’ without any attached stigma.”
Angela congratulated Reminiscence Learning’s Chief Executive Fiona Mahoney, who wrote the Archie narratives which form the basis of the project in schools, for the “brilliant jobs she and her team are doing to make a difference to the lives of people who live with this terrible disease.”
Wellesley Park is one of 500 schools – mainly primary – involved in dementia awareness projects nationwide. Later this month a new programme of work will be introduced in youth groups and secondary schools. There are also plans to introduce dementia-awareness programmes in the workplace.