Federation Annual Council Meetings have come to an end for now and my journeying around the country has slowed down. The last two meetings on my agenda were Devon and my own federation of Cambridge; both were thoroughly enjoyable and offered lots of WI information on which to feast.
Meetings of all types are the stuff off WI, and last week I attended a new group; the Prime Minister's Challenge on Dementia Friendly Communities Champion Group. Chaired by Angela Rippon and Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer's Society, the group is to discern how dementia friendly communities can be encouraged, brought about, and act accordingly to help people with dementia, and their carers, remain part of their communities. The group will meet several times throughout the year, investigating how to develop a cross-sector approach to build understanding and raise awareness of dementia and eventually producing a report with recommendations.
Despite the fact that one in three people over 65 will develop dementia stigma is rife. There is a real lack of awareness of dementia amongst the public and in many places, there is a lack of understanding of the needs of both those who suffer from dementia and those who care for them. People with dementia want to remain independent for as long as possible, and they want to have choice and control over their lives through all stages of their dementia. A common misunderstanding about dementia is that it is an inevitable part of ageing and nothing can be done to improve people's lives; this definitely is not so and the Alzheimer Society will provide Alzheimer Ambassadors – people who suffer from dementia – to speak to groups to explain and dispel so many of those myths around dementia.
The champions group is made up of representatives from across society including the emergency services, banks, supermarkets, local government, foundations, leisure outlets, utility services, design services food outlets, transport operators, Plymouth Dementia Action Alliance, and the WI. The Plymouth group is led by an extremely compassionate and dynamic man who felt dementia sufferers were a silent majority in that city and following hard work and determination, some 40 organisations and institutions in the city have now signed up to the Dementia Action Alliance. The city council now plans to set up a city coordinator to develop individualised training schemes within Plymouth, which is a great result; where there is a will there is a way.
I know there are many WI members out there who are caring and quiet demetia-friendly hubs – I look forward to updating you all on the group’s progress throughout the year.