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City dementia alliance is fastest growing - but need highlighted by survey results

Dementia Friends gather at The Forum in Norwich for National Dementia Week. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Dementia Friends gather at The Forum in Norwich for National Dementia Week. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

More than half of those living with dementia in Norwich have stopped going out walking or running since their diagnosis, it can be revealed.

Dementia Friends gather at The Forum in Norwich for National Dementia Week. Chief executive of AgeUK Norwich & chairman of Dementia Action Alliance Norwich Susan Ringwood. Picture : ANTONY KELLYDementia Friends gather at The Forum in Norwich for National Dementia Week. Chief executive of AgeUK Norwich & chairman of Dementia Action Alliance Norwich Susan Ringwood. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

The statistic comes as a drive to make the city somewhere safe and welcoming for those with the condition celebrates its first year - with impressive results.

A report released today shows the Norwich City Dementia Action Alliance (DAA) had smashed targets set to train dementia friends, and was the second largest group of its kind in the east of England.

And Susan Ringwood, chief executive of Age UK Norwich which chairs the DAA, heralded the project a success. She said: “The enthusiasm of the founders has been more than repaid by a strong response everywhere - confirming our belief that Norwich wants to make a difference to the lives of people living with dementia.

“We are finding that people of all ages are engaged and concerned. Clearly, that’s because dementia affects so many families, whether it’s a partner, a friend, a parent or perhaps a grandparent.”

When the scheme was launched last January, the publishers of this newspaper Archant joined seven other organisations to ensure the city was dementia-friendly.

Norfolk is set for a 35pc increase in the number of people with dementia in the next eight years - from 14,000 to 19,000.

Now, there are 60 organisations involved with each making their own pledges for change.

In a long list of success stories, one recruit which has seen a real impact is ReAssure, the life and pensions company which works with Aviva in the city.

The Norwich operation, based in Aviva’s offices, has trained 298 dementia friends in less than a year out of some 400 staff.

And including ReAssure bases in Hitchin and Telford has notched up more than 500 in total.

Director Steve Shore said: “It’s making a real difference. We think it’s important to do this to raise awareness of dementia generally, and for us I have 70-80 people on the phones, and others in the back office, writing to customers.

“A lot of our customers are older people and the dementia friends information sessions means we have staff with an understanding of dementia, who can be sensitive and adapt their style according to the signs they pick up. The dementia friends scheme is extremely important for that reason, in any business.

“Our staff have been really inspired. They are proud to be wearing their dementia friend badges in the workplace.”

Under the DAA some 2,409 dementia friends have been made so far - where training brings more awareness to what dementia is and how to make things easier for those living with it.

The goal was to reach 1,300 by 2017, with 7,000 being the 2020 target.

But the project also revealed the stark reality for some of those living with dementia in a revealing survey, which showed 12pc of people were not able to leave their home.

While 54pc were now unable to go for a walk or run, some 28pc could not go shopping and a further 23pc could not visit family or friends.

Health could be affected too as 12pc said they could not reach doctors or hospital appointments.

And social connections at community groups were missed by 23pc, and religious groups by 13pc.

The importance of further work was highlighted by one respondent who said: “No one really seems to be aware or understands. People have little patience, too busy with their own lives.”

Ms Ringwood added: “We are keen to grow our membership further. We are under-represented among transport companies - which have a key role to play - and in the arts. We’d like to bring on board more retailers, both the small independent shops and some of the national chains that are on our high street.

• For businesses and organisations wanting to find out more or to join the Norwich DAA, find the alliance on Facebook by searching Dementia Friendly Norwich or email Dan Skipper on dan.skipper@ageuknorwich.org.uk

What pledges have been made?

When signing up to the alliance, organisations made pledges of improvement.

At Norwich Airport people with dementia and their carers are now able to take a trial run from the car park to the plane, to prepare for travel.

While at Norwich Playhouse a performance was hosted about a woman with dementia and her grandson, exploring the impact it had on their relationship.

Many organisations committed to training staff as dementia friends, including Archant where more than 50 members of staff are now trained.

At Aviva, documents and products were reviewed to make sure they were accessible to vulnerable customers.

Cinema City committed to hosting dementia-friendly screenings and create dementia-friendly spaces.

And at the Farmyard Restaurant, on St Benedict’s Street, dementia-friendly lunches are held.

Norwich Railway Station also became one of the first pilot dementia-friendly stations.

Future focus

The Norwich DAA will continue to focus on raising awareness, but will also turn its gaze to transport

The alliance’s annual report said difficulty using transport was “undermining confidence”.

And 57pc of people said public transport was very important to them.

One carer said: “Bus drivers are not educated in dementia and I have made a few complaints over the treatment of my mother.”

Another said a lack of services meant she had to drive everywhere. She said: “It is a bit catch 22 – we need to go out, but often it’s such a challenge we end up getting our shopping online. Although that’s easier, it makes you feel trapped as it’s another normal thing you can’t do.”

To tackle this, the scheme will speak with transport providers, train frontline staff to be dementia friends, and bring problems to the attention of Norfolk County Council.

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