Guest blog: Dementia Awareness Week gets the Big Lottery Fund thinking

Castlehaven Community Centre

Castlehaven Community Centre

This guest blog was contributed by Abigail Ryan, Learning and Programmes Manager at the Big Lottery Fund. The Big Lottery Fund awards grants to UK organisations to help improve their communities. 

Ways of helping people to live well with dementia have been on our minds at the Big Lottery Fund recently, particularly in the wake of this year’s Dementia Awareness Week. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has been an emerging theme on our UK Accelerating Ideas programme, which aims to get great ideas and practice for our ageing society more widely shared and adopted across the UK.

A variety of organisations doing great things with people experiencing dementia have approached us about their projects. We’ve supported some already, such as Learning through Landscapes, who are transforming care home gardens to support people with dementia. We’ve also awarded The Reading Agency, Six Degrees Social Enterprise and Life Story Network development grants to work on their project ideas.

We’ve heard about different activities that have been shown to have a really positive impact for people with dementia – from reminiscence to sport and music. We’ve learnt that sometimes the activities themselves are incidental and it’s the social element of a project that really makes a difference. We’ve been reminded that everyone is different and some things work for some and not others.

We also think that approaches that move away from designated activities and are incorporated into everyday life and care are particularly interesting. For example, not just thinking about nutrition around set meal times, or looking at the role that all carers and people in communities can play to make big and small changes throughout the day.

It’s clear that plenty of people are funding and doing a wide range of good stuff across the UK already, so this has got us thinking – what should our role be? We’ve been considering this from the starting point of our strategic framework, which is all about people and communities being in the lead. We think our funding could help to empower and raise the voices of people affected by dementia.

Initiatives like Dementia Friendly Communities and Dementia Action Alliances are trying to make communities inclusive and improve the lives of people with dementia, so it’s crucial to ensure that they have an active role to play in shaping these initiatives.

Networks and organisations like DEEP and Innovations in Dementia are already offering opportunities for engagement, but there’s more work to do. Continuously ensuring that practice is driven from the bottom up could really start to shift attitudes and behaviours in communities. It seems that there’s still plenty to learn about what really helps to create inclusive communities too.

On Accelerating Ideas, we think there’s a real opportunity to focus on learning across the UK as well, to support organisations doing good work to share and collaborate more. We’d also like to support great practice from overseas to get a foothold in the UK, for example, the Dutch Meeting Centres Support Programme is one model currently being tested.

What do you think about where Big Lottery Funding could make a difference for people living with dementia? Know anything that fits the bill described here?

Please share your comments below or get in touch by emailing us at: abigail.ryan@biglotteryfund.org.uk

Find out more about dementia diagnosis and support on the Age UK website 

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