The London Paralympics changed attitudes to physical disability by challenging stereotypes and prejudices directly and York is attempting to do this for dementia too.
We know that exclusion and stigma are a common experience for those among us who are living with dementia. How would you feel if shop assistants tutted impatiently as you struggled to remember your pin code or if your church said they’d rather you didn’t come anymore because you sometimes interrupt the sermon? And how would that make your partner or family feel?
We need to encourage more ‘dementia-friendly’ communities. Through our work in York, we have learnt that many of the resources and services in a place can be harnessed for the benefit of people with dementia.
By striving to be more dementia-friendly we can maintain and boost the confidence of people in the earlier stages of dementia, and their ability to manage everyday living. This will improve their quality of life and also perhaps enable the formal services to focus more on those at the later stages.
Places and neighbourhoods that provide good customer service, housing, transport and facilities will not only be more dementia-friendly but will also make life easier for other older people, disabled people, families and, in fact, all of us. The ‘dementia community’ may even be a source of custom and revenue - the spending power of our growing elderly population has been overlooked in the past.
There’s a lot to do – but it’s great that York is picking up and running with its ambition to become dementia-friendly. There are lots of initiatives under way already:
- GeniUS! York has recently launched its ground-breaking Dementia Challenge - a chance for the people of York to bring all their expertise together to find solutions to some of the practical challenges people with dementia face in their daily lives.
- GCSE Drama pupils at Joseph Rowntree School have spent time with a person with dementia and his wife to deepen their understanding of how they see the world, before developing a piece of theatre which they performed at the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust AGM last week.
- City of York Council and the PCT have jointly funded Dementia Forward to help with community development in York.
- And at JRF we have a new grants stream for dementia-friendly ideas.
Do get involved – you might well have something unique to offer!