First birthday party celebrates success of North Walsham café for people living with dementia and their carers

Standing from left: Alan Wilmott and North Walsham Mayor Barry Hester with Arthur and Heather Willey

Standing from left: Alan Wilmott and North Walsham Mayor Barry Hester with Arthur and Heather Willey at North Walsham's Cameo Cafe first anniversary party. Picture: ALEX HURRELL - Credit: Archant

Celebration was the theme of a special North Walsham Cameo Café session marking its first birthday.

A year ago organisers feared the café might not attract enough people living with dementia and their carers to make it viable.

But by the spring they had to expand to two café sessions per week to cater for demand, and this week's birthday party was packed with users and VIP guests.

The café sessions, held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am-3pm, give users a chance to meet and chat, enjoy a hot two-course lunch, and afternoon activities including singing together, dancing, gentle exercise, live music, crafts, quizzes, puzzles and reminiscence sessions.

There has even been a group outing to the Time and Tide Museum at Great Yarmouth.

'It's shown that there's a real need in North Walsham,' said Doreen Bland, chairman of the North Walsham Dementia Support Group which set up the café. 'One carer told me that it's her lifeline.'

Sessions also include a monthly carers' group and information about help available.

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Carer Kate Moore takes 81-year-old Barbara Hanley, from Swanton Abbott, to the sessions every week.

'We laugh so much and have so much fun,' said Ms Moore. 'People with dementia may not remember exactly what they did, but they remember the general feeling of having enjoyed themselves.'

Tamara Jackman takes her mother-in-law Jean Jackman, 62, from North Walsham.

'Jean enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles and relaxing with other people who are going through the same experiences,' said Tamara.

'It also gives her husband a break and they do things like lend books for her grandchildren which explain why Nana's memory isn't so good now.'

Jen Eddison is one of more than 30 volunteers who help run the sessions.

'I do it because I care and because it's so satisfying to see people enjoying themselves and wanting to come back,' she said.

Carol Dunnell, secretary and a founder member of the support group, said they were delighted at the café's success and the anniversary had been boosted by news that they are one of only seven groups in eastern England to receive a £500 grant from the Skipton Building Society's Grassroots Giving scheme. ? The café is held in the Salvation Army's Furze Hill Resource Centre, at 73 Happisburgh Road, North Walsham. For more information ring 01692 502708.

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