Creating a dementia-friendly York

Creating a dementia friendly York
Published on Tuesday, 13 November 2012 14:09
Written by Philly Hare

"Doing everyday things takes some thought now. I go to the local shops on my own. I make lists when I go shopping. Sometimes I have trouble finding the list in my pocket, but I do.  I can imagine going shopping and having trouble finding my wallet

I would hate that to happen to me, it would be so embarrassing. The main shopping I do with my wife. It's rare that I would go into town on my own. The town's a big place full of people who don't understand. There are lots of shops and I don't know where I'm going. When your brain isn't working properly, little things can become big problems."

These are the words of Peter Jones, aged 72, a York architect who took early retirement after he was diagnosed with early onset dementia. Peter was part of a small group of people with dementia who help produce the accessible summary of the 'York Dementia without Walls' project for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.  Throughout the project we have worked with local people with dementia themselves, and their carers. Short films of some of them can be found in the section YORK DEMENTIA WITHOUT WALLS on

This project  has highlighted the great scope for supporting local communities, organisations and businesses to become more aware and understanding of dementia, and more inclusive. The report suggests that:

  • Increasing awareness of dementia and changing our attitudes towards it can help to remove the stigma many people feel. This may help people to talk about their experience, to engage more in society and to ask for the support they need.
  • Training for people at all levels and in all sectors should be easy to access and well promoted. This should enable people who provide everyday services to understand better what people with dementia need, and assure the best levels of service and care for them.
  • York's bounty of leisure, cultural and spiritual services can help people live richer, fuller lives if they are more dementia friendly.
  • This might require some adaptation, but communicating that people with dementia are welcome would be a good first step.

What it also shows very clearly is that what's good for people with dementia is good for everybody.

There has been huge interest in the project both nationally and locally, especially since it was cited as a case study in the PM's Dementia Challenge report. Our involvement with the Dementia Challenge Champions Group enables us to share lessons from the York project and to learn from others engaged in similar endeavours.

We are continuing to support developments in York through our new programme Dementia without Walls. The project has already started to stimulate many new ideas and initiatives – here are just a few examples:

  • City of York Council has formally committed to supporting York to becoming a dementia-friendly city and, with the PCT, is funding Dementia Forward to work on dementia-friendly community development
  • GeniUS! York has run a new dementia challenge to generate ideas and discuss practical – and perhaps technological - solutions. Daphne Wallace, who has dementia, was one of the judges.British Transport Police are working with the Alzheimer's Society peer support project and a small group of people with dementia to help them familiarise themselves with the station and feel more confident about train travel.
  • GCSE Drama students from Joseph Rowntree School met with a local couple, James (who has since died) and Katie, to hear first hand about living with dementia in York. They drew on this experience to develop a moving theatre production which was recently shown and filmed at the JRHT AGM.
  • Leisure services have put on specific activities for people with dementia, including New Age Curling and Jiminy Cricket, and are now planning to develop a course for local sports clubs to encourage inclusion of people with dementia.

The dementia-friendly community is a fairly new concept and we are all still learning how to make it a reality. It's not a race and we are really keen to share our ideas, learning, successes and failures with others.  As well as continuing to support work in York, and seeking to demonstrate what a dementia-friendly employer can look like, JRF will also be funding dementia-friendly projects in Bradford, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales next year. We are very committed to sharing learning across all four nations of the UK.

The last word goes to Peter again: "It's important that people with dementia are involved in projects like this one in York. No-one can understand what it's like to have dementia unless they've got it. I would never have believed how complicated life could be. Sometimes I need to stand still and think through what I'm doing – even simple things. I enjoyed being involved in writing the report for the project."

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