Since it’s inception little more than a year ago, the Brecon Dementia Friends group has made enormous progress towards its goal of making Brecon a Dementia Friendly Community. Dementia Friends Champions have delivered more than 100 awareness-raising sessions and, due to the hard work and innovation of volunteers, Brecon was the first town in Wales to be officially recognised as ‘Working Towards Becoming Dementia Friendly’.
Since the latter part of 2014, a great deal of work has been undertaken with local schools as, in addition to making Brecon a Dementia Friendly Community, the group is committed to creating a dementia-aware generation, so that children growing up in and around the town understand and recognise dementia, have a positive attitude and know how they can help and support people living with the condition.
Dementia Champion Joan Brown tells us more about this innovative and exciting work below.
Llanfaes Community Primary was the first school in Powys to take on this challenge, and was the first school to be officially recognised as ‘Working Towards Becoming Dementia Friendly’. Staff and governors attended an initial awareness session delivered by a local Champion, (who also has two grandchildren in the school), followed by sessions delivered to Year 5 and 6 pupils during which the children enthusiastically embraced the idea of getting involved in dementia projects.
Dementia Awareness has subsequently become an integral and ongoing part of school life. At the children’s request, a school coffee morning was dementia-themed and Year 5 pupils designed posters, leaflets and models in order to increase the scope of awareness-raising. They were also keen to undertake some real ‘hands-on’ activities, which has resulted in an inter-generational project with Trenewydd Care Home focused on Year 6 children and residents working together to develop a sensory garden designed by the pupils in consultation with residents; this project is supported by a very welcome grant from Brecon Rotary Club.
The project is in its second month and the weekly sessions have already had a huge impact on children and residents alike. Llanfaes head Mrs Karen Lawrence said, “In my 30 years of teaching these are some of the most inspirational sessions I have had the privilege to be part of”. She went on to say, “It was reported to us that after the children visit, the staff are amazed at the level of conversation between the residents at mealtimes which they do not see at any other time”.
Joan Brown, the Champion involved in the project said, “It’s clear that the residents love having the children around and the easy relationships that are growing between them and the children are a joy to behold. The residents seem to come alive during the sessions and talk about their own gardens from many years ago. They tell the children what they used to plant and the plans for the garden are based on their memories and wishes”.
Llanfaes School also incorporated National Dementia Awareness Week into their Healthy Living Week, and the Engagement Coordinator from the Commissioner for Older People’s team visited and was able to see children from Reception class to Year 6 taking part in activities to foster continuing understanding and awareness. As a result of this, some of the Year 5 pupils will become Junior Dementia Ambassadors to assist in delivering sessions to younger pupils in local schools. On 23rd May, Llanfaes choir also performed at the Celebratory Concert which rounded-off Dementia Awareness Week in Brecon.
Brecon Dementia Friends Champions have delivered sessions in a significant number of other local schools including Ysgol y Bannau, Brecon High, Christ College, Mount Street Infants, Llangynidr and Llangors schools, but this is only the beginning! The model that has been so successful in Llanfaes will act as the foundation for future developments, the long-term aim being for Brecon’s young people to become a truly Dementia Aware generation. In respect of this goal, Mrs Lawrence said “We are sparking that fire and will continue to do so. We believe this contributes immeasurably to our children valuing the experiences and knowledge the elderly have and of becoming caring citizens of the future”. The Brecon Dementia Friends group is confident that the dementia aware generation that’s growing in Brecon will make our town a better and more caring place for all.