In My View – Amy Sim: How Chichester and its businesses are working towards a dementia friendly community

| March 2020

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, 1 in 14 people over 65 have dementia. It usually starts by affecting short-term memory but can also have an effect on communication, motor skills and vision, which can make a dramatic difference to daily life. Even something simple, like a trip to your local high street or favourite café, can become a challenge.

So how are businesses in Chichester making a difference to people within our community who are living with dementia, as well as their carers?
Chichester is making bold moves to become more welcoming, led by local charities, groups and forums, including the likes of the Chichester Dementia Action Alliance and the Our City scheme, which Chichester Cathedral is proudly part of.

Our City was launched by The Wrenford Centre in partnership with Chichester District Council and West Sussex County Council. The scheme aims to help vulnerable people feel safe in Chichester city centre. Those taking part are given a card to write the contact details of two people, for example a relative, friend or carer. Then if they need help when out and about, they can take the card into a participating venue, café or shop where staff will be trained to offer basic help and can call one of the numbers if the person requires more assistance. Many Chichester favourites have already signed up, including Chichester Festival Theatre and Pallant House Gallery.

Here at Chichester Cathedral, we are working towards creating a dementia friendly community – a place where people with dementia will be understood, respected and supported by people who are aware of and understand dementia.

With the help of an environmental checklist and input from the Alzheimer’s Society’s Chichester and Bognor Positive Thinkers – a group of local people living well with dementia – we intend to review the Cathedral and its precincts and make any changes we can to improve access and the experience for our visitors affected by dementia. Initiatives will include better signage, lighting, exhibition texts and so on.

Over eighty of our staff and volunteers are now Dementia Friends, including people in our shop, café and accommodation. A Dementia Friend is someone who has attended a one hour information session delivered by a Dementia Friends Champion and has committed to an action that will make the lives of people living with dementia a little better.

The Cathedral’s Learning and Engagement team also offer guided tours and creative opportunities that are designed to be dementia friendly. A special tour of the Cathedral and a singing morning are among the events planned for Dementia Action Week (11th – 17th May 2020). Also, for the last two years a special carol service has brought together people living with dementia, their carers and local school children, and another is planned for December this year.

There’s still a long way to go to make our venues and businesses more welcoming for people living with dementia and their carers – but one small step we can all take is to become a Dementia Friend.

Any shops or organisations that would like to support Our City should contact Leo at the Wrenford Centre on 01243 788544.

By Amy Sim, General Manager, Chichester Cathedral

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