A Q&A with the Chief Executive of Age UK Norwich about launching Norwich as a Dementia Friendly Community. A blog by Tony Arthur and Michael Woodward
On the 25th January 2017 we attended the Dementia Friendly Norwich launch at the Forum in Norwich. We took the opportunity to speak to Susan Ringwood, Chief executive of Age UK Norwich, to understand her vision for getting Norwich to be a dementia friendly community and what the challenges might be in the months ahead.
- You’ve just launched the Norwich Dementia Friendly Community initiative, what does ‘dementia friendly’ mean to you?
‘To me ‘dementia friendly’ means being part of a community that is welcoming, understanding, accepting and inclusive of people living with dementia, their families and friends.’
- Are there examples you can think of that illustrate dementia ‘unfriendliness’?
‘From the examples we have come across, these are mostly down to a lack of understanding, and sometimes a bit of prejudice. I can’t think of any unfriendliness that has been deliberate. The ‘unfriendliness’ can be personal- like not knowing how to communicate effectively with someone, or assuming they won’t be able to follow what is being said; or else it is the environment that is unfriendly- which could mean it is confusing, or disorientating.’
- What are the first steps for Norwich DFC?
‘There was a great deal of activity already underway in the city, so the first step is to harness that and provide a platform that brings it together. Having the Norwich City Dementia Action Alliance really helps to make the work of the individual members much more visible, and means that those organisations that have joined up are prepared to be accountable for delivering their pledges.’
- What do you think are the main challenges for getting Norwich to be ‘dementia friendly’?
‘I think it will be important to keep up the momentum from the launch, and to continue to encourage member organisations to be part of spreading the word. We can’t be complacent just because we have made such a good start.’
- How will you know that the Norwich DFC has been a success?
‘We have set some very concrete targets in terms of numbers of people who are taking part in dementia friendly activities, attending awareness sessions etc.- but for me personally it will be a success when it’s such a natural part of the city’s life that we don’t need to draw attention to it anymore.’
- Are there examples from other cities or communities that have helped in informing the direction of the Norwich DFC?
‘We were very grateful for the support and encouragement of colleagues who had been part of setting up the dementia friendly communities in the county towns of Norfolk and Suffolk; but we couldn’t just translate that experience directly to Norwich- it takes a different approach to get a city together around an issue.’
- If you could give one piece of advice to an individual or an organisation wanting to be more dementia friendly, what would that be?
‘Just do it. Find out if there is already someone involved in your local area who you could talk to- and if not why not become that person who is involved yourself!’
We would like to thank Susan Ringwood for taking the time to answer our questions.
Tony Arthur and Michael Woodward are part of the DEMCOM study (Dementia Friendly Communities: The DEMCOM Evaluation). The study is funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programme led by Professor Claire Goodman.
You can find out more about DEMCOM by clicking here.