• Faith and people with dementia 24 October 2016 | View comments

  • 11th October 2016 | By David Jolley

    The Methodist Recorder carries a front page headline this week ‘pioneering dementia vision’. The article runs over to page two and oozes enthusiasm for an initiative in Cumbria to promote Dementia Friendly Church. As is so often the case, the energy for this comes from someone whose family has been tested by dementia. David Richardson is a church warden at Kendal parish Church (Church of England. His mother died with dementia. This is an ecumenical project with Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Church of Scotland and United Reform Church commitment. So this is a marvellous thing. There are similar initiatives amongst churches elsewhere, perhaps not quite so ambitious but just what is required.

    Many church communities are dominated by older people. Methodists are said to live longer than any others. Churches often seem to be uncomfortable about their age profile, a not so covert ageism it seems to me. Always, or mostly, the ambition is to attract children and younger people. An exception to this rule has been the Back to Church Sunday idea which originated in Manchester from the Bishop of Manchester well over ten years ago. Based on research amongst Manchester communities, this autumn appeal is to the over fifties, for it was found that it was in this age group that there was interest in the possibility of returning to a faith group, or joining one for the first time. http://www.manchester.anglican.org/evangelism/back-to-church-sunday

    ‘When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed anybody’.

    Time for thought and reflection. A different sort of confidence or anxiety. So we at Bowdon Vale have borrowed this idea this year, thrown our nets where they have not been thrown before. It is proving to be a rewarding and encouraging exercise.

    This is not to turn away young people and children. It will be wonderful if the draw can turn into an all age attraction. 

    Of course the skew toward old age within congregations means that dementia is a common phenomenon amongst regular worshipers. So it is entirely logical that the churches of Cumbria have taken this brave and expansive step to become Dementia Friendly. Other individual churches are already on the journey. Our Dementia Conversations take the matter a bit further by making time and space available for people to explore and share their experiences of life with dementia. Involvement is not limited to church members. We are preparing to speak to their advantages at the Dementia UK Congress in Brighton November 2nd. Brighton is such a buzz of a place. It lifts the soul just to know that we will be there. www.careinfo.org/ukdc-2016/

    I think we should offer a comment to the Methodist Recorder and there are other opportunities for publication’s and presentations. Everywhere will find advantage in Dementia Conversations. They may not be intrinsically faith based but it does seem relevant that our first two successful versions are occurring in church premises. It is possible that other faith communities will follow their leads. This will be interesting for the dementia movement and for faith communities.

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