Dementia is fast becoming a ticking time-bomb with an ageing population. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are around 850,000 people in the UK suffering with dementia – one in 14 people over the age of 65 will develop the disease.
Memory Cafés were started in the south-west [of Great Britain] by the Rotary Club of Tiverton, as part of the Rotarians Easing Problems of Dementia initiative. As a result, the Sid Valley Memory Café was launched by the Sid Valley and Sidmouth Rotary Clubs in April, 2010, with the support of Devon County Council.
Initially, the café met once a month as a place where members could chat, have tea and enjoy music and other activities. After a slow start, the café grew quickly and now 40 to 50 members meet each week where they enjoy an expanded range of activities, including outings, exercise sessions and walking and gardening groups.
Music plays a major part in the café’s activities and it has produced its own songbook.
The support offered to [caregivers] forms an important part of the café’s activities. Many new friendships have been formed, which can be particularly valuable as old friends often fade away as memory problems increase.
Remarkably, even after losing their partner or the cared-for, members continue to visit because of the friendships they have made.
The café has become a major asset for the community in the Sid Valley where 40 per cent of the population is retired and 15 per cent is aged over 80.
It is run entirely by volunteers and has been self-funding shortly after its launch. The annual expenditure is around £7,000 [around $10,000] which covers the cost of rent, insurance and outings, a sum which is met by donations, fund-raising and council support.
In 2015, following discussions with Dementia UK and supported by the Sidmouth Herald newspaper, the café launched a campaign to raise £50,000 to fund an Admiral nurse for the Sid Valley. Admiral nurses give much-needed practical and emotional help to family [caregivers], as well as those living with dementia. Thanks to huge community support, along with a Big Lottery grant, the first Admiral nurse in Devon started work in April last year.
In addition to its weekly meetings and outings, the café has recently launched a befriending drive, with the support of Aviva, to help overcome the isolation often experienced by [caregivers] and those living with memory issues. l
This article is from Rotary, the Official Magazine of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland, February-March issue, 2018.