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Laughter, friendship and dementia

A project has enabled people affected by dementia to collaborate with artists and share their experiences with the wider public.

A project has enabled people affected by dementia to collaborate with artists and share their experiences with the wider public.

Dementia project
Members of Age UK Exeter’s Budding Friends group. Picture: Ian Beesley

 

I recently had the pleasure of joining Age UK Exeter’s Budding Friends group and three artists collaborating on A Life More Ordinary, a project led by Linda Clare at the University of Exeter.

The project is part of a study called Improving the Experience of Dementia and Enhancing Active Life, a large national survey of people living with dementia and those who support them.

This research has grown out of the recognition that we need to find ways to help people with dementia lead better lives.

Laugh lines 

by Ian McMillan

Grin grew to chortle grew to chuckle

Grew to guffaw grew to hoot

Grew to cackle grew to giggle;

In the allotment that year

We had a really healthy crop

Of laughter: planted, tended

Picked and distributed to us all

Free of charge to use right now.

 

Or keep for later

When we needed it.

Photographer Ian Beesley, cartoonist Tony Husband and poet Ian McMillan held a series of workshops with a group of individuals with dementia and their partners.

By visiting the group’s allotment, involving everyone in creative activities and talking to people, the artists produced a booklet of artwork aptly named The Allotment of Time.

The booklet explores how memory problems can confuse or change how we perceive time.

Improving the everyday

The group reflected on much-loved photos from the past, showing that although dementia has disrupted many of their memories, other memories or the emotions behind old photos seem to ‘stick’. 

It also expresses the ‘allotment of time’ by showing how the group spend their time now and live each day with dementia.

Visiting the group it was clear that their time together, the friendships formed and the amazing amount of laughter they share are hugely valued.

News reports about dementia that promote fear and hopelessness are still endemic.

By sharing individual experiences through the booklet, we hope that readers will see the difficulties of living with dementia, but also the life beyond the diagnosis.

It shows we have the potential to improve the everyday experiences of those with the disease.

The booklet is available free here.


About the author

Ruth Lamont

Ruth Lamont is a research fellow at the University of Exeter

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