The Dukes, Lancaster, Age UK Lancashire and the Centre for Ageing Research at Lancaster University.

A Life More Ordinary’, part of the third phase of a programme funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation that began in 2014, gives people living with dementia across Lancashire more choice, more control and as the title suggests, enables them to have meaningful relationship with their community and their family.

Building on an initial pilot programme, this three year programme continues dementia-friendly film screenings and creative workshops in Lancaster and extends it to other cinemas and arts cinemas. What makes it unique is that all activity, which has been adapted for people with dementia, is also available to the general public. The next phase of the Lancaster programme will also include setting up a ‘Memory Loss Theatre Group’, led by specialists in the field, to encourage people with dementia to reminisce through speaking and movement. 

In addition to encouraging those with dementia and their families to share creative experiences, it will help develop a better understanding of the condition and its impact on relationships and communities.

A second major element of this phase is exploring the feasibility of The Dukes’ model to be delivered through diverse arts organisations of different scales.  In 2016, the programme will be rolled out in five other venues including FACT in Liverpool and Chorley Little Theatre.

A major conference in 2018 will share the results of this three-year Esmee Fairbairn funded initiative.

Such impact could not be achieved without the combination of the expertise, knowledge and resource of the three partners.  The Dukes has a wealth of experience in working with diverse communities through theatre and an established, accessible venue with creative expertise; Age UK Lancashire brings extensive networks and knowledge, which provide a strong case for the development of new social interventions with regard to dementia and inform the creation of bespoke programmes. For example, a three-year Age UK Lancashire project – Linking Communities – revealed that older people with dementia and family members wanted to continue relationships but found it almost impossible to join in the sort of activities enjoyed by the general public. The Centre for Ageing Research at Lancaster University has a robust academic understanding of dementia and a commitment to ongoing research that will inform future practice. Their evaluation of the project and the partnership will evidence the impact of the work and identify the key factors for success that will have a positive impact on practice in the arts and healthcare.

In addition to the benefits it brings to those with dementia and their families, the initiative is a model of partnership excellence that also brings benefit to The Dukes, Age UK Lancashire and Lancaster University.

For the The Dukes, it allows the organisation to build on its strengths, to broaden its creative offer and reach new audiences.  It increases access to the organisation – both behind the scenes and to its public programme. Association with Age UK Lancashire, which trained The Dukes’ staff in engaging with people with dementia, is helping build ownership and confidence across the team and more dementia-friendly visitor services. And through the project, The Dukes has developed a relationship with a major funding organisation.

Through the partnership Age UK Lancashire is raising awareness of the needs of people with dementia and their families and is sharing their expertise and knowledge to have a positive impact at the heart of communities. The organisation is influencing change in the cultural sector which will improve the lives of the communities they represent.

The project provides a valuable research resource for the University, enhancing the understanding of dementia and the development of dementia-friendly communities.  It is a channel through which research can be applied for public benefit and by evaluating the programme, Lancaster University will gain and increasingly rich body of knowledge.

One wife of a dementia sufferer who has already benefited from The Dukes events said: ”The first thing people with dementia do is shut off – they can’t or won’t join in conversations. Sometimes when you go to what you would term ‘normal’ activities, my husband is unable to join in, switches off and we end up coming away. Here he was part of a group and could join in. And that does you good as well which is important to carers because we’re enjoying it when they’re enjoying it and it’s something we can do together.”

Lancashire has around 17,600 people with dementia aged 65 and over. These numbers are expected to rise to more than 25,600 by 2025. In Lancaster alone, there were 1,823 people with dementia in 2010, predicted to rise by 42% by 2025.

A Life More Ordinary is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, The Rayne Foundation, Film Hub North West Central, The Dowager Countess Eleanor Peel Trust and The Elspeth J Thompson Charitable Trust.

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