Dementia is an illness that perhaps isn’t spoken about as often as other diseases, like cancer or heart disease.
Yet the impact it has on people who develop it and their families, can be equally devastating.
Which is why we were delighted when the Dementia Friendly East Riding charity was voted our Charity of the Month for June.
And especially pleased that our £250 donation will be used to part-fund an initiative shining a spotlight on the illness and its effects on people’s lives, called The Memory Project.
The initiative centres on a play written by Elizabeth Godber – daughter of renowned local playwright John Godber – which will be performed at all 18 East Riding secondary schools this November. It features the stories of real people Elizabeth met with in her quest – driven by her observations of friends’ experiences – to understand more about dementia.
First performed for East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s 2018 Festival of Words, our funding will help around 500 13 to 16-year-olds, mainly in years 9 and 10, to experience its poignant content.
Simon Foster, from the Dementia Friendly East Riding charity which is collaborating with Elizabeth on the performances, said: “Dementia comes in many guises and affects people of all ages and, although awareness is improving, it’s not an illness that people are particularly comfortable talking about.
“Yet, there are things that can be done to improve the quality of life, and relationships, of people with the disease and their families, and we are keen to help as many people as possible to understand what they are, by encouraging them to talk about their experiences.
“That’s why we’ve been working with Elizabeth and her touring theatre company, Smashing Mirrors, to help the young people who represent the future generation, to better understand the issues and how to deal with them.”
Elizabeth has become a passionate advocate of dementia awareness herself, after witnessing friends’ experiences with relatives who developed the illness. She was inspired to research the subject, liaising with Dementia Friendly East Riding and interviewing a range of people about their own experiences. Following in her dad John’s footsteps as a playwright, she is carving out a niche for herself, tackling different social issues and phenomena, like dementia, through drama.
“I’ve spent a lot of time researching the issue of dementia and working closely with Dementia Friendly East Riding to understand the issue and what can be done to ease the pain and distress of people who have it and those around them,” she said.
“I’m conscious that many of the young people we will present the play to in November will be experiencing dementia in their own lives, just as I have, and watching the performance will hopefully help them to make sense of what they are going through.”
Karl Elliott, the Society’s Chief Executive, added: “As a building society, we’re acutely conscious that many of our members will be touched by this illness in some way.
“To this end we already host awareness days with Dementia Friendly East Riding to ensure that our customer-facing teams are thoroughly trained in understanding and helping people with some of the issues it creates.
“We’re really pleased that our members have chosen to have us also support Dementia Friendly East Riding with The Memory Project, so that we can further extend our involvement in increasing awareness and understanding of the illness.”
Image: Simon Foster of Dementia Friendly East Riding, visiting our Beverley Branch to accept their donation