The mission to get everyone in the Harrogate district involved in becoming a dementia-friendly community was officially launched this week. Reporter JAMES METCALF was at the launch and spoke with many of those involved.
Together we can make a difference.
These were the words on the screen as campaigners, business owners, and the public came to the official launch of the initiative to make the Harrogate district dementia-friendly, and they set the tone for the overall theme that the people involved in the project are devoted to - making a genuine difference for people living with dementia.
Everyone who has so far taken up the call to become dementia-friendly, by taking the education programme from Dementia Forward, learning about the disease and what they can do to help and pledging to make changes for the better, was thanked and presented with their official dementia-friendly stickers that will hopefully become a familiar sight across Harrogate as more and more people become dementia-friendly.
Dementia Forward CEO Jill Quinn said: “I think it is so important to have local links. My big hope is that everybody here will take it on as an individual challenge to spread the word.
“Dementia can be a lonely place because of the stigma that is attached to that illness or because of a lack of understanding and the fear of it. That is what this is about for me.
“We are ready to sign people up to the local alliances and to go out and do that education that so badly needs doing.”
The staggering fact is that as more organisations take part, enormous numbers of people who have previously been cut off from society out of fear, the need for safety, or concern that the people around them don’t understand what they are going through.
This will affect not only people with dementia, but their families and carers who have little respite themselves and sometimes need help to cope.
As cafes, hotels, schools, rail companies, and many other organisations become dementia-friendly they too will be able to lead more of a normal life.
The campaign from the Harrogate Advertiser series and the scheme to form a local alliance in support of people living with dementia in the community is with this central aim in mind - to make life easier and better for as many people as possible for as long as possible.
The Mayor of the Borough of Harrogate Coun Jim Clark was on hand at the event and spoke about his own experience of dementia, both in his personal life and through his previous role as chairman of North Yorkshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny committee.
He said: “Dementia is a disease that affects older people, and with Harrogate and North Yorkshire having an older than average population it means dementia is going to be a very important part of our lives.
“It is going to affect most people in the community, and I think it is so important that we are able to react to that and make life as normal as possible for those living with dementia and their carers.
“People didn’t tend to talk about dementia and the great change I have seen over the past five years is that people are talking about it and it is good to see people confronting this disease. I think we can make a massive impact by being dementia-friendly.
“The key to being able to help people with dementia is keeping them at home and in the community as long as possible and that is what we are looking at. I hope you will be able to commit yourselves and your businesses to this because that is the key.
“We need to be able to live and adapt with dementia and therefore it is important that everybody is involved.”
Guest speakers at the event spoke of the importance of making a difference on the ground in society with the people who come into contact with people living with dementia as they continue to live independently.
These include businesses who have already pledged to become a part of the Dementia Action Alliance, like Cafe Culture, and organisations that are taking part in the education in the near future.
Harrogate High School’s health and wellbeing coordinator Lee Wilson said: “This is a fantastic opportunity and we are the first school to take it up in Harrogate.
“We will look to raise awareness of dementia among our staff and student body. This understanding can help us ensure a quality of life for people for as long as possible.
“Lots of students have come forward, not only those that already have an awareness but also students from year seven to year 13 who wanted to have that awareness and help to have an impact.”
Graham Carter from Cafe Culture said: “We have several people that come into the cafe who have dementia, and I am very proud of my staff that they will get involved and be part of this whole scheme.
“I think this is something we can move on with. When people saw we were in the Harrogate Advertiser as dementia friendly they started talking about it and that started to break down barriers.
“That is what this is about.”
Now all businesses and organisations in the Harrogate district can get involved and take up the call, becoming part of a social movement to make a difference together.
In this they will form one crucial part of a much wider effort across the UK that aims to change the lives of people living with dementia for the better.
Project manager for the Yorkshire and Humber Dementia Action Alliance Simon Wallace said: “To people with dementia simple acts of human kindness are really what it is all about and really what the Dementia Action Alliance is all about.
“We are a social movement with an incredibly simple goal, and that is to change society’s attitudes to dementia. You are part of that journey towards becoming a dementia-friendly district.
“You are part of something that is already a huge success and I want to thank you for being part of this journey.”
Get in touch with Dementia Forward on 01765 645904 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
In the event of an emergency, call their helpline on 01765 601224.