Tonbridge, Knole and ‘twiddle mitts’ are put forward for dementia friendly awards

Premier Inn Tunbridge Wells

TONBRIDGE has been nominated for the Most Inspiring Dementia Friendly Community (DFC) award in Kent. Many local organisations and companies are also in the running for recognition.

Since its inception two and a half years ago, Tonbridge DFC has held awareness sessions that recruited more than 400 new ‘dementia friends’.

The town has hosted the virtual dementia tour twice and built a sensory garden.

A third business engagement event was held this month, and sports clubs have also been backed by -Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, providing a new circle dance group and dementia friendly golf and indoor bowling.

Among companies with fewer than 250 staff, Abbey Funeral Services Ltd in Tonbridge is nominated as a Dementia Friendly Company.

Its Managing Director, Chris Parker, was -instrumental in setting up the Tonbridge DFC group and over the last two years Abbey has become a hub for local people seeking -information about dementia and local facilities.

Chris says: “I’ve worked very hard to raise awareness and encourage business to work towards being dementia friendly. and I thought I really ought to be blazing the trail.

“Some examples of the success we’ve had are Inspirations Hair Salon, Castle Cars taxi service, Clarke Williams insurance brokers and Warners solicitors.

“It’s about helping firms to think about what they do and the way that they do it.

“We’ve been working hard to make sure we do too. It’s little things like putting a folding chair and a travel rug in the back of the hearse, so that those attending services at the crematorium in Tunbridge Wells can keep warm. Often they have to wait for half an hour and it can get very windy up in the cloister garden.”

She adds: “In fact if you make your business dementia friendly then you have covered 99 per cent of all other frailties and disabilities, even by making little changes that help with things like difficulty of mobility.”

AWARENESS Chris Parker of Abbey Funeral Services

Inspirations turn their chairs around because clients might not recognise themselves in the mirror. Castle Cars have trained drivers to attend to the needs of more vulnerable passengers.

For organisations with more than 250 staff, Jeremy Kimmel, Development Manager at Tunbridge Wells Museum, and Sarah Richards, Healthy Lifestyle Co-ordinator at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) have been put forward.

Tunbridge Wells DFC has delivered two Jive Parties, information events and a very successful Twiddle Mitts Knit Appeal this year organised by Bethan Minter, Creative Learning Manager of the Assembly Hall Theatre.

Bethan’s twiddle mitts are nominated for the Community and Partnership Project Award. The knitted or crochet tubes, decorated with colourful adornments, help to reduce anxiety in people with dementia by occupying restless hands.

The public donated more than 120 mitts over a six-week period, which were passed on to Capel Grange, Highlands House and Cornford House.

Bethan said of her nomination: “It’s exciting, I’m a little bit stunned. It was very successful, we had YouTube videos and Facebook pages. Some of the mitts are works of art in themselves.

“The appeal had a bigger effect than we envisaged. People were asking a lot of questions and that’s good, it’s all about raising awareness.”

The museum has created a Museum Object Handling Dementia Toolkit so that people with dementia can discover museum collections.

‘People were asking a lot of questions and that’s good, it’s all about raising awareness’
Another project called Museums on Prescription looked specifically at combating social isolation often experienced by people with dementia.

Sevenoaks DFC Forum has also been put forward for the community award. Along with advice sessions such as ‘Let’s talk about dementia’ and ‘Coping with dementia as a family’, it has offered events like Venture into Dementia, which encouraged people to try a number of taster sessions of activities available for those with dementia.

The town’s Knole House was shortlisted for the Dementia Friendly Organisation award. The stately home is the first National Trust property to host a Dementia Café this year. The ‘Forget me not Café is run with The Good Care Group and Home Instead Senior Care on the first Friday of every month in Knole’s new learning centre, The Hayloft.

Knole also hosted two Health and Wellbeing days, with carers advice, Tai Chi, massage, laughter therapy and foot healthcare, and offered ‘reminiscence sessions’ at care homes and community groups. It has worked on improved access and created sensory tours.

Last year, Elaine Ferris from The Good Care Group, Symone Salwan from Home Instead Senior Care and Anton Tavernier- Gustave of Sevenoaks District Council joined forces to stage an inaugural Run Walk Or Push Against Dementia event in Knole Park, a contender for the Community and Partnership Project award.

Five hundred people took part across 3km, 5km and 10km distances, raising £4,500. This sum helps to fund the  Forget-me-Not café at Knole as well as two more in Edenbridge and Westerham.

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