A special awareness day for dementia will take place in St Ives next week, as the town continues in its quest to make communities more informed about the disease.
Taking place at the corn exchange, in Market Hill, the event will see talks, short films and activities about how people can help those living with the illness – a condition which affects more than 800,000 people in the UK, 8,000 of whom live in Cambridgeshire.
The initiative has been headed up by Councillor Ian Jackson, who, after serving as town mayor in 2015, decided to start fundraising for a local group.
“I discovered a group of volunteers running the Memory Lane Singing Café and was moved by what I saw,” he said.
“A gentleman there had obvious difficulty in chatting to me no matter how hard I tried. But as soon as the volunteers started singing an early Beatles number his expression changed. He became animated and enthusiastically joined in and was word perfect.
“The difference in him was amazing and he and many others in the group continued all morning clapping and singing and dancing. It was party time all right and the beneficial effect of such a simple therapy was impressive.”
Dementia is an umbrella term for more than 100 different conditions – of which the most commonly known is Alzheimer’s disease.
And numbers are predicted to rise to one million by 2025, with two million people set to be living with the condition by 2051.
Keen to help, Cllr Jackson has been supporting the Dementia Café in St Ives, run by the Alzheimer’s Society.
He said: “If we can learn more about what happens in the brain and how this affects a person’s behaviour we are better equipped to relate to him or her in a meaningful and positive way.
“We can also learn about the small changes we can make that make such a big difference for those with dementia. And understanding this is easy.”
Now, a steering group has been set up to cement the town as a dementia-friendly community by the Alzheimer’s Society, with Cllr Jackson and other volunteers encouraging residents and businesses to get involved.
By attending a 40-minute education session, anyone can become a ‘dementia friend’, with businesses then receiving a window sticker too.
“I am delighted to announce that the window stickers are at last beginning to appear,” Cllr Jackson added.
“Companies are pleased for their commitment to be acknowledged and people with dementia are pleased that one of the things they enjoy – getting out and about and shopping in their own community – is still something they can do with more confidence.”
For those yet to be involved, the awareness drop-in session on January 19 will run from 11am to 1pm and is free to enter.