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Bridging the Generations -
Memories are Made of This

Dementia café Market Harborough has been spearheading an exciting project which helps school students and older people talk to each other, and help those with memory problems to recall those magic moments from earlier years.

Robert Smyth AcademyHarborough District Council Rotary Club Market HarboroughIn 2013 a project partnership between the Dementia café charity, Robert Smyth Academy, Harborough Rotary Club and Harborough District Council has saw almost 40 volunteer school students and 25 volunteers from the ranks of the Dementia café meet to have conversations about earlier year’s memories.

The conversations were recorded at a special session in the Three Swans Hotel on Friday 21 June 2013, and a DVD was made of the ‘edited highlights’ and released to Libraries throughout the County.

Chair of the Dementia café Trustees (then Steve Kendall) said “The café already has a strong relationship with the Academy and the Rotary Club in Harborough, and the idea for this project came out of discussions with staff and Rotary Club members. We all felt that there was a strong case for taking a dementia awareness programme to the school community”.

“We are really pleased with the response, both of our own members, and the students of years 10 and 12 at the Academy. On the day we recorded the conversations there was a real air of excitement and anticipation, and the initial viewing of the material suggests there are some real highlights coming through to the DVD” he said.

Mrs Chris Davies, Head of Art and Design Faculty at the Academy pointed out “This project was about bridging the gap between 14-16 year olds and older people. It was not only heart-warming to see the pleasure both the students and older people took in each other’s conversations, but the enthusiasm and commitment of all involved was really quite stunning”.

There was a more direct benefit from the project, as Steve Kendall outlined: “Those with early stage dementia and their carers have an increased sense of isolation, which is exacerbated by their perceptions that young people don’t care and are not interested in people of their age. When we spoke with the young people it was clear that they were equally unsure as to how to talk with and interest older people.

This project showed that when both ages actually talk and listen to each other these misconceptions and suspicions can be exploded and really strong bonds developed.

We have all been impressed with the students who volunteered”, he said. One comment made by a student after the event will stay with me for a long time said Steve: “When asked what the Students had taken from the day, one put her hand up said ‘I was a little bit nervous at the start, but after a couple of minutes I couldn’t tell who was the carer and who had dementia – and a couple of minutes later I actually realised that it didn’t matter – they were really interesting people with a real interest in what I thought and did”.

Special mention should also be made of the part played by Josh English, who gave an impromptu rendition of Danny Boy on the violin during the lunch break and Laura Wilson who led a short period of community singing just after lunch. Both were hugely appreciated by all who attended the event.

The project has been supported by the Harborough Health & Well-being Partnership. This is a group of local agencies and organisations who are working to join-up the activities of the partners to create a greater impact and improve on the levels of local support available to residents in the District.

As part of a package of support by local organisations, the Three Swans Hotel donated the use of their conference facilities for the recording session.

 Robert Smyth Academy's website has their photos and story from the day.