The Public Programmes Team has been commissioned by Dr Iracema Leroi and NHS Strategic Clinical Networks Greater Manchester, Lancashire and South Cumbria to design and deliver Dementia Matters.
What is Dementia Matters?
This project aims to improve dementia awareness, empower young people to talk more openly about dementia, and facilitate inter-generational exchange. Dementia Matters will include bespoke collapsed-curriculum days to be piloted in several secondary schools and colleges across Manchester.
Currently, a third of young people in the UK know somebody with dementia and this figure is set to rise. There will be one million people living with dementia in the UK by 20251, therefore we need to start talking about it, and thinking carefully about how we engage young people with the subject.
From the outset, we need to establish a basic level of understanding about dementia. This will act to immediately address misconceptions among young people and provide a foundation of knowledge upon which to build upon during future activities with young people. A great way to achieve this is to run a Dementia Friends session. This short session helps to define the disease, introduces the appropriate terminology for discussing dementia and reiterates five key messages such as:
Dementia is not a natural part of the ageing process
This helps to equip young people with the facts, addresses stereotypes, and introduces the idea of social action in building Dementia Friendly Communities.
Listening to thoughts, opinions and preconceptions
34% of people living with dementia don’t feel part of their community (Alzheimer’s Society, 2014). Social stigma surrounding dementia still exists. This negatively impacts upon diagnosis rates but can also result in feelings of isolation within localities.
Not only do we need to ensure that young people can talk openly about dementia, we also need them to feel comfortable communicating inter-generationally by telling their friends or family about it.
Dementia Matters will bring external guests into schools, fostering community links and providing access to people with different experiences of dementia. Involving healthcare professionals, researchers and the voices of people living with dementia will help students appreciate that there is more to the person than the disease. The day aims to create an environment where dialogue is encouraged and young people are able to formulate their own opinions through facilitated discussions and group work.
Harnessing ideas and searching for solutions
The major theme running through Dementia Matters will be research. Participants will be introduced to several areas of research, from basic science that aims to increase understanding of the mechanisms of disease to psychosocial research that looks to improve psychological, social and physical outcomes for those diagnosed with dementia.
Students will work with researchers working at The University of Manchester to familiarise themselves with the wealth of research and then will go on to consider the future of dementia research by looking at funding priorities.
During hands-on workshops throughout the day, young people will be exposed to some of the challenges faced by people living with dementia and their carers. They will go on to explore the use of assistive technology, designing their own pieces of equipment to specifically address the challenges they hear about directly. Students will have the opportunity to harness their learning, creatively addressing issues like building a dementia-friendly environment or developing an inter-generational event.
Throughout Dementia Matters, young people will meet new people, work as a team and have their voices heard. We hope that their experience inspires them to take action within their communities. To facilitate this, we will provide opportunities for them to build upon their understanding of the condition and take up volunteering opportunities.
We hope that the project will empower young people to talk about dementia clearly and confidently within their networks. This will enable our younger generations to contribute towards dementia-friendly communities that are capable of supporting those living with dementia now and in the future.
1 Alzheimer’s Society, 2014