A walk down memory lane
How organised walks in Islington parks are supporting people with dementia
This year, Dementia Action Week (16 May to 22 May) is all about diagnosis. Research by the Alzheimer’s Society shows that there is a misconception around memory loss being a sign of normal ageing and this is the biggest barrier to people seeking a dementia diagnosis. They want to encourage those who might be living with undiagnosed dementia to seek guidance and support and to feel empowered to take the next step.
IslingtonLife has been talking to Jo, a nature conservation officer at the Ecology Centre in Gillespie Park, and Colin, a heritage ranger who spends most of his time in Caledonian Park. Both work for the London Borough of Islington and are helping Islington to become a Dementia Friendly Community.
Jo and Colin have taken steps to make the parks more dementia friendly, such as running regular dementia friendly walks and changing the signage. Jo is helping the Ecology Centre to work towards becoming an Alzheimer’s Society accredited Dementia Friendly Venue.
Here, they tell us about their work and share their thoughts on why becoming dementia-friendly is good for everyone.
How have you helped Islington work towards becoming a Dementia Friendly Community?
Jo: We’ve both done Dementia Friends training, along with our colleagues. This helped us to run Dementia Friendly walks in Gillespie and Cally parks.
Nature is brilliant for getting people out of the house, and sights and smells are a great way of triggering memories and conversations. The walks can provide a social element and help people to be part of a community.
Colin: When we set up the dementia-friendly walks, we asked for feedback and made some changes to ensure everyone felt included and supported. There are simple things that can be done, like sticking to the paths and ensuring there is always a bench or place to sit nearby. And offering tea first went down a treat!
How has becoming a Dementia Friend impacted your work?
Jo: A lot of the things that we’ve done to become dementia friendly have helped our venues be more accessible for everyone. Taking a dementia friendly approach is a way to try to tackle social isolation, by getting people out and about. The walks have a social element and help people to be part of a community.
Colin: It’s creating a fairer borough, too – it helps to break down some of the invisible barriers to accessing our services and venues, that different groups of people experience.
Jo: People with dementia and also carers attend the walks. Everyone is welcome. We are also planning to do more intergenerational work – parks have something for everyone.