Melanie is a Dementia Friendly Communities Coordinator in Southwark. Here she shares her tips on how she encourages dementia friendly activity and supports communities to raise awareness and reach diverse groups.
The importance of connecting people
Melanie organises quarterly Dementia Friendly Community meetings for any organisations in Southwark who deliver dementia friendly actions and activities. Attendees have commented that the meetings are effective at “connecting people together across the network to bring together relevant skills and support” and give people the opportunity to exchange tips on community projects with other organisations and learn from each other’s experiences.
By encouraging this networking, Melanie has helped bring communities together to achieve wonderful outcomes.
What’s good for your heart is good for your head
“I went along to an inclusive Walking Sports Activity session held by the Ballers Academy. These sessions can really help improve mood and get people together who may otherwise be isolated. At one of our quarterly meetings, a Walking Sports Coordinator was invited to share how the activity sessions had made a difference to people living with dementia. As well as helping people to stay physically fit, the activities themselves are designed to help stimulate the mind, support balance and hand-eye coordination and engage connect people who can feel disengaged with the community.”
“I proactively raise awareness across Southwark about the importance of sports and physical activity for people living with dementia and the important messages around prevention and reducing risk of developing dementia – “What’s good for your heart is good for your head.” This gives people a better understanding of how dementia is caused by diseases of the brain and not a normal part of ageing.
“A Dementia Adviser commented that through the sessions, one lady with dementia became significantly more communicative and engaged and that the sessions help people who used to be keen sports people to re-engage with their sporting memories, invoking a sense of pride - and this is a great way to ‘see the person before the dementia’”.
Reaching diverse communities
“Through Southwark working towards being a Dementia Friendly Community, organisations are invited and empowered to spread the word to others and increase awareness of dementia. Another fantastic outcome of networking with the Walking Sports Acvity group was that I was introduced to Elim House, which is a day care and community organisation for older members of the Caribbean community. As a result, I was invited to take part in an Open Day at Elim House during Black History Month, increasing awareness of dementia and local support.
“I am now working with them to plan future events and activities, including a Dementia Friends Session to staff and volunteers. It’s great to be able to connect with, and support, more people within ‘lesser-heard’ communities.”
Continuing to work together
“I am particularly keen to work with community groups who provide support to local residents as this could be a way to reach people pre-diagnosis to help spread the word about the signs and symptoms of dementia, how to get a timely diagnosis and support available from the community.”
A fantastic example of why bringing communities together is so important, and how every opportunity could lead to another!
Learn more about Dementia Friendly Communities here.