Online Community Makers: innovating support for people affected by dementia

In my role as Programme Manager for the UK Meeting Centres Support Programme I was invited to represent the Association for Dementia Studies to work on a project looking at ways to support people living with dementia during this period of social distancing and isolation.  The project is a  collaboration between the UK DRI Care Research and Technology Centre at Imperial College London and the Alzheimer’s Society Innovation Team with our support.

The aim of the project is to explore and experiment with what it means to create an online community centre for people affected by dementia and share discoveries with other groups trying to reach and include people online. The result of this will be an online toolkit with guides, resources and tips around topics such as running virtual events, choosing software and including people without technology. The planned timescale for roll-out is the end of July 2020.

Community Makers

To inform the development of the toolkit a group of Community Makers was set up which meets up on a regular basis over Zoom and which shares ideas and feedback via Slack. The Community Makers are all at various stages in developing online communities and represent a range of different groups. There are members who have not started up a group at all and just thinking about it; members who have just started running an online group once a week and some who are running a range of different groups and have been since the start of lockdown with a small number prior to that.

Some of the Community Makers are part of the Meeting Centre network and include those providing a range of different online sessions:-

    • People with dementia and carers activity groups including seated exercise, singing, poetry, felt making and quizzes.
    • Carers groups.
    • Smaller groups of tea and chat.
    • 2-2-1 support which also enables carers to have time to themselves whilst still being in the background.

Often these are supplemented with a range of approaches such as regular telephone calls, activity packs (some incorporating cognitive stimulation therapy), FaceTime and WhatsApp calls. All of these are very important in any case as not everyone has the technology, connectivity or desire to engage in such means of communication. More recently physically distanced visits in the garden and walks are taking place.

There are plans to expand the Community Makers group soon as we realise that there are many others with expertise and interest in this area.

Case Studies

This project will be following the set up of two online communities. One of these will involve a cohort from UK DRI and will be using StarLeaf as their virtual platform. The other group is from Herefordshire, where I live, and has come about because of my interest and involvement with local dementia initiatives. This group has started from scratch and members have never met with each other before. We decided on Zoom because that is what most people are used to for family and friends, however we recognise that StarLeaf has a range of useful features and is easy to use. Other online platforms are available!

We are calling the Herefordshire group, ‘Herefordshire Online Meeting Point’ because it has the ethos of a Meeting Centre and there is the aim for it to expand in time to become face to face and to become a fully-fledged Meeting Centre. What is interesting is how quickly, with weekly one-hour sessions, the group has jelled and how easily conversation and discussion flows.

Moving forwards

I have been privileged to be part of a number of online support meetings for people affected by dementia over the last three months and I find that online is not necessarily a reduced experience. Clearly some of the people in the meetings would not have been together without Zoom but some would not have met. There is something quite powerful about the medium and I think it is because people are in their own home so they may be feeling more comfortable and in control of the situation. I do believe strongly though that online support should not be automatically seen as a substitute for face to support but is complementary, however in some cases it may suit certain people better in certain circumstances. There are a lot of similarities and lessons to be learned from implementing distance and online learning (more of that in another blog). There are already plans to extend the Herefordshire initiative based on early feedback and experience, for example a separate carers group, and this will be a case study for the new online toolkit.

I am planning a number of blogs over the coming weeks about this project and related topics. If you would like to read more about Community Makers and the Toolkit please see blogs by Matt Harrison (Senior Designer in the Helix Centre – Imperial College)

Creating an Online Community Centre — responding to needs of people affected by dementia during the COVID crisis

Getting virtual — defining the needs of an online community centre.

Matt will be leading our monthly Meeting Centres BYOL webinar on Friday 26th – please join us here at 12.30 pm for 45 minutes  June 26th 2020

Connect with ADS on twitter @DementiaStudies and on Facebook @adsuow




Worcestershire Dementia Meeting Centres Information Meeting 10th Feb 2020

On a dull, damp and grey day in the wake of Storm Ciara, around 100 people came together at Worcester Arena to find out more about the new funding for Meeting Centres which has been made available by Worcestershire County Council.

For people who were less familiar with Meeting Centres there was an initial session to provide a bit of background and make sure everyone was on the same page. Approximately half of the attendees made use of this optional session, learning more about Meeting Centres. Following a short break to enable the rest of the attendees to arrive, Professor Dawn Brooker welcomed everyone to the main part of the day and gave an overview of the Meeting Centres work so far.


Richard Keble – Assistant Director for Adult Social Care at Worcestershire County Council – set the scene from a Worcestershire perspective to say why Worcestershire County Council feels there is a need to establish Meeting Centres. There was a strong feeling that this is a county-wide initiative with a focus to “prevent, reduce or delay the need for funded adult social care”.


To help the group appreciate what a Meeting Centre looks like on a day-to-day basis, our own Mike Watts  swapped hats to share his experiences as a Trustee of Droitwich Spa Meeting Centre and their rollercoaster journey. We heard about how the Droitwich Spa Meeting Centre came into being, how it has evolved over the past few years, and how it overcame the challenges it has faced – particularly around funding.
Following on from this, Dawn gave an overview of the UK Meeting Centres Support Programme  (UK MCSP) more widely, considering how the work being done nationally is relevant for Worcestershire. For example, the National Conference which is taking place 5th May will bring together people from the nine existing Meeting Centres and will be a great place to share their experience and gain knowledge.


As part of her role on the UK MCSP, Dr Shirley Evans  – who is also a Trustee at Leominster Meeting Centre – can provide support to people looking to set up a Meeting Centre, and is an invaluable source of information. She invited people to get in touch via and also provided information on the ‘Bring Your Own Lunch’ webinar series where Meeting Centres share their experiences.


Senior Lecturer Mary Bruce then talked about the two-day training courses for new Meeting Centre staff being offered by us at the Association for Dementia Studies. Several dates have already been scheduled over the coming months, and the training will be an important resource for all potential Meeting Centres.

Funding was obviously the main focus of the session, and Dawn set out some of the ground rules and our initial thoughts on how the funding application process may work.
There was also the opportunity to meet other attendees from the same areas within Worcestershire to find out who else is interested and to make useful connections to take ideas forwards. Based on some of the conversations taking place – and the networking that followed over lunch – there should be a lot of activity across Worcestershire in the near future. We’re looking forward to receiving a flood of applications from potential Meeting Centres.

Watch this space!

If you would like any information about the UK MCSP or the potential to access the new funding, please contact us at

Connect with ADS on twitter @DementiaStudies and on Facebook @adsuow

Leominster Meeting Centre Bring Your Own Lunch – reflecting on the first four years

In the first of a new series of ‘Bring Your Own Lunch’ webinars, and on the eve of their fourth birthday, Leominster Meeting Centre reflected on their first four years of operation.

Kicking things off, Shirley Evans [link] (a Trustee and Treasurer of Leominster Meeting Centre) gave a bit of background as to how Leominster Meeting Centre started. As part of the MeetingDem project which ran from 2014 to 2017, Droitwich Spa and Leominster were identified as potential venues for the first two Meeting Centres in the UK. The Droitwich Spa Meeting Centre opened in September 2015 while Leominster started operating on 1st February 2016.

One of the first steps for Leominster Meeting Centre was to set up a Planning Group, and the following image shows just how many different organisations and individuals were involved at this stage.

Cheryl Poole (a Trustee with a focus on safeguarding) then took us through the early stages of Leominster Meeting Centre, including the unsettling time when the initial funding from Herefordshire Council came to an end. Interim funding from the Alzheimer’s Society gave Leominster Meeting Centre the time to set themselves up as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, and it was this charity that took over the governance and running of the Meeting Centre in September 2017. At this point, Leominster Meeting Centre was faced with three key challenges…

Challenge 1 – Who was going to manage the Meeting Centre?

The answer was Joy Valentini, as owner of Ab Fab Domiciliary Care Agency, who became Manager of Leominster Meeting Centre. Joy herself told us how she initially became involved with the Meeting Centre through her husband who was one of the Leominster Meeting Centre members. We also heard about some of the connections that Joy has made locally to raise awareness of the Meeting Centre. It’s worth noting that in 2019 Joy was runner up in Herefordshire Health and Social Care Dementia Team Award.

Challenge 2 – How could the Meeting Centre increase their numbers?

Cheryl – who incidentally was winner of the Herefordshire Health and Social Care Good Nurse Award for 2019 – was able to promote Leominster Meeting Centre within the community and within her professional role, for example helping Memory Services to be aware that it was an available option for referral within their local community. Cheryl’s efforts, combined with others, has resulted in an increase in members at Leominster Meeting Centre.

Challenge 3 – How can the Meeting Centre be funded?

As Shirley explained, funding has always been – and will always be – a challenge, but different sources have helped to keep Leominster Meeting Centre going over the past four years. As their membership has increased over time, funding generated from the membership fees has also increased (unsurprisingly), and more recently funding from the National Lottery Community Fund has helped to provide some stability for the Meeting Centre.

So where is Leominster Meeting Centre now?

Leominster Meeting Centre has expanded over time and currently supports around 30 pairs of paying members. It has also become embedded in the local community through a variety of activities. Leominster Meeting Centre is part of the UK Meeting Centre Support Programme [link], acting as a demonstrator site which can share practice with interested parties and emerging Meeting Centres, and engaging with data collection to add to the existing evidence base around Meeting Centres.

Sustainability of Leominster Meeting Centre

As can be seen in the image below, Leominster Meeting Centre is undertaking a number of different activities to promote sustainability and ensure that it continues to support people affected by dementia.

Following the presentation element of the webinar, time was available for attendees to ask questions. There was a good level of interest around sharing experiences, membership fees, types of sessions delivered at the Meeting Centre, intergenerational activities, and staffing and volunteers.

Overall, the webinar provided a great insight into Leominster Meeting Centre, and we’d like to thank Shirley, Cheryl and Joy for taking part as we know these sorts of things can be quite nerve-wracking.

So happy birthday Leominster Meeting Centre, here’s to many more years of the wonderful work that you do.

If you would like to get in touch with or find out more about Leominster Meeting Centre their contact details are:

The next webinar will take place Friday 28th February, with Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre [link] presenting and you can find out how to access it on the Association for Dementia Studies website [link to MCSP page where BYOL are advertised]


Lottery Funding for Dementia Meeting Centres

Two Meeting Centres in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, for people living with dementia and their care partners, have received a major boost from the National Lottery.

Droitwich Spa Meeting Centre has been awarded almost £175,000 to support its work over the next four years, while Leominster Meeting Centre has been awarded £96,620 to support its work over the next three years.

LMC Cheque presentation

The Meeting Centres were set up in 2015 and 2016 respectively as part of a research project being conducted by the University of Worcester’s Association for Dementia Studies to assess the effectiveness of meeting centres in the UK. They have since both been established as charities, run by local community members and supported by the University.


Meeting Centres are essentially social clubs where members and their care partners can enjoy the company of others in a community setting where they can relax, have fun, talk to others and get the help they need by participating in a variety of activities that address their emotional, cognitive and social requirements. This helps them to adjust to their changing needs and re-build their confidence and reduce anxiety over the future.

Professor Dawn Brooker, Director of the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester, said: “Meeting Centres are based on solid research about what really helps people and families cope with the challenges that dementia brings. The Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester has been working on this research since 2014. There is tremendous interest across the UK in setting up new Meeting Centres. This funding will ensure that many more communities have the opportunity to visit a fully operational Meeting Centre and to receive practical advice on how to establish their own.”

The funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes and is the largest community funder in the UK, will help provide more certainty and stability for the two Meeting Centres over the coming years.

The funding will also enable the two Meeting Centres to continue to share their experiences and help develop best practice with the wider dementia community through the Centres’ participation in the National Lottery funded UK Meeting Centres Support Programme (UKMCSP), which is helping communities across the UK to set up a Meeting Centre in their local area.

The Leominster Meeting Centre is open each Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10am to 3pm at The Old Priory in Leominster, Herefordshire. Around 16 to 20 people attend each day, with some coming one day a week and others two, three or four times. It has become a vital part of the local community, welcoming many visitors and participating widely in local events and initiatives.

Joy Valentini, Manager of Leominster Meeting Centre, added: “I have been associated with the Meeting Centre from its early stages, both as a carer for my husband, who has dementia, and as Manager and a Trustee. The Meeting Centre changed our lives after his diagnosis, from feeling hopelessly isolated to giving us the support to feel confident and enjoy ourselves again. Two years ago I was given the opportunity to manage the day to day running of the Centre. I feel that my first-hand experience has given me the capability to help and support others facing a similar journey, and in the latter stages of my husband’s illness it has given me a new sense of fulfilment and pride in its success.”

The Droitwich Spa Meeting Centre is open each Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10.30am to 3.30pm at the Droitwich Rugby Club and is staffed by a dedicated team from Age UK Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Around 12- 15 members attend each day.

Jeff Mayes, a former RAF Flight Lieutenant and member of the Centre, added: “I started to get dementia and everything went down from there, you feel as though you have got nothing left but this place has given me a purpose. You can join in with whatever’s going on and have a good time. The people at the Meeting Centre are so good, they are there to look after you but they keep the spirit going all the time. It’s a very happy place. I don’t know how I’d manage if I didn’t have this place to come to – it fills a big hole in my life.”

Summer 2019 – Update from the UK Meeting Centre Support Programme

Come the 1st September 2019 we will astonishingly be a year into the National Lottery Community funded UK Metering Centre Support Programme (UK MCSP) project. We thought it would be very timely before most people go off on a very well-earned break to have a quick review of what we have been doing since the first newsletter three months ago, alongside where we are and what we will be doing over the next three months.

What’s happened so far?

The aim of the UK MCSP project at the end of the three years is for between 15 and 20 new Meeting Centres (MCs) to be opened or under development across the UK for people and families affected by dementia. These can then act as demonstrator sites and centres of learning for others. There were already eight MCs at the start of the project, Droitwich Spa, Leominster, Ross, Brecon, Llandrindod, Ystradgynlais, Lutterworth and Northampton. We were delighted to see the soft launch of Kirriemuir in May with the official launch planned for the 1st August. This is the first MC in Scotland and it has generated a great deal of other interest. We look forward to attending the official launch very much and will be in very good company with the Minister for Health in Scotland amongst the guests.

The existing MCs have played a big role in the spread of MCs and there is a real Community of Learning and practice taking shape. There have been exchange visits between MCs and MCs have been welcoming visitors from across the UK and overseas.

What’s next?

Other MCs opening soon are Purbeck and Hereford in September and Newtown in October. Powys in Wales will then have four Meeting Centres and Herefordshire will have three. A number of community engagement events are planned, and with new enquiries coming in weekly, we expect there to be at least another three on top of those already mentioned opening before the end of the year. We seem to be on target with our aim!

Pioneer Workshops

We have held a number of Pioneer Workshops since April, in Plymouth, Worthing and Liverpool with workshops planned for Wrexham (18th Sept), Newcastle (26th Sept), Leeds (1st October),  Manchester (9th October), Doncaster (5th November) and Northern Ireland to be confirmed over the coming few months.

Evidence and evaluation

Part of the UK MCSP project involves developing a toolkit for MCs to self-evaluate and collect data which will inform their strategy and operation as well as funders. It will also provide a body of evidence from across MCs which is essential in terms of influencing policy.  With this in mind we now have ethical approval from the relevant University of Worcester ethics committee and Dr Shirley Evans, Jen Bray and Graham Galloway have been piloting the data collection tools at Leominster and Kirriemuir. The nature of the data to be collected has all been based on various data requested by different funders. We will be getting feedback on the toolkit so far and making the tools available to other MCs over the next few months.

The National Reference Group

The National Reference Group meets every six months with the last meeting taking place back in March and the next meeting being in October 2019. One key discussion point has been around the essential features of an MC. Professor Dawn Brooker has been leading on developing a short booklet identifying the key features together with a checklist with which existing and potential MCs can self-assess where they are and what they might to do to move forward. Again this is being piloted in some of the MCs. This document, once finally agreed by the group will be made available for everyone to use.

How can I find out more?

For further information and/or to contact us for support you can get in touch with us in many ways:

Web: and



Twitter: @MeetingCentres


That’s it for now, but as you can see there’s a lot going on with the project. Exciting but busy times for everyone involved!


The Meeting Centre Support Programme UK National Reference Group

Spring has sprung, which means we’re well and truly moving through 2019. I can’t believe it’s April already (how did that happen?), but it does mean that it was time for the second meeting of the Meeting Centre Support Programme UK National Reference Group last week.

After a welcome by Professor Dawn Brooker which included an overview of the variety of people included in the group, Dr Shirley Evans  provided a project update to get the group up to speed on where we’ve got to.


To summarise, a lot has happened!

  • There have been many enquiries and expressions of interest in developing Meeting Centres, and it’s definitely gaining traction and momentum. One of our main challenges with the number of enquiries is trying to work out where places are – geography is not necessarily our strong point!
  • The Pioneer Workshops are going well, with several more planned or in the pipeline (link to website with list).
  • We’ll be delivering monthly webinars about the project and setting up a newsletter to keep people up to date with progress.
  • Our first training has been delivered in Kirriemuir, Scotland to support the planned opening of their Meeting Centre in May.
  • Data collection tools have been developed and will be piloted with some of our existing and emerging Meeting Centres.

Basically, we’re on track and making good progress – which is always reassuring!

Our first discussion topic explored the ‘essential features of a Meeting Centres’ to show what makes something a Meeting Centre and how it differs from other types of care. For people who don’t know about Meeting Centres, this can often be tricky to get your head around, but trying to define it on paper is just as difficult!

We had some good discussions about the various elements of Meeting Centres such as location, inclusion criteria and workforce requirements, and it was great to have people living with dementia from Innovations in Dementia to keep us grounded and focused on what really matters. Trying to strike the right balance of a standardised approach and not being too prescriptive is the ultimate goal, all we have to do is work out how to achieve this. Answers on a postcard please…

Following a sandwich lunch, Claire Fry from NHS England  and Graham Galloway provided overviews of the dementia care pathways in England and Scotland. Professor Rose-Marie Dröes , who originated Meeting Centres in the Netherlands, also shared her perspective of the Dutch dementia care pathway. This set us up nicely for the afternoon discussions around where Meeting Centres fit in with the dementia care pathway in the UK and when they are/are not appropriate.

We’ve now got lots of views and thoughts to compile, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you to everyone who joined us as part of the group and made it such a successful day.

Have you got any Meeting Centre related news or activities that you think we should know about? Get in touch using twitter (@MeetingCentres), the ADS Facebook page  or email us at

Pioneer Workshops – Helping you find out more about Meeting Centres

The Association for Dementia Studies (ADS) has been involved in the development of Meeting Centres for a number of years now, and since September 2018 they’ve been working on a new project ( to help local communities across the UK to set up Meeting Centres in their areas.

Can you just remind me what a Meeting Centre is?

No problem. Meeting Centres are an innovative way of supporting people with mild to moderate dementia and their families through an evidence-based, person-centred approach and offer an enjoyable, flexible and adaptive programme of activities and support. They are a great low-cost community-based way of supporting people living with dementia and their families that have been successfully implemented in the Netherlands for over ten years and in the UK for over three years.

Meeting Centres have already attracted a great deal of interest from different parts of the UK. They could be a good practical application for DAAs and Dementia Friendly Communities who want to make a difference within their local area.

Got it. So how will a Pioneer Workshop help?

ADS has funding to run a number of Pioneer Workshops across the UK during 2019 to help people think about and plan how a Meeting Centre might work in their community.

In each workshop they’ll be looking to cover a range of topics:

  • The background to Meeting Centres, including a bit about their history, the underlying principles and ethos, and the adjusting-to-change approach.
  • How to run a Community Engagement Event
  • How to set up a Meeting Centre Planning Group of interested stakeholders.
  • Creating an implementation plan –
    • Who your target group is (who will attend the Meeting Centre)
    • The programme of activities (for people with dementia, for carers, for the wider community)
    • Finance (funding and sustainability)
    • Finding a good location
    • Protocol and collaboration between stakeholders
    • Staffing and training
    • PR and marketing (reaching out to participants and referrers)


That’s a full programme, how long does a Pioneer Workshop last?

Registration will open from 10am, with the workshop starting at 10.30am. A buffet lunch will be provided, with the workshop ending at 2.30pm. However, members of the Meeting Centre project team will be available to answer to any remaining questions until 3pm. By the way, did I mention that the Pioneer Workshops are free to attend?

Free? Great. Hang on though, I bet there won’t be one anywhere near me.

The first Pioneer Workshop takes place 26th March here in Worcester (booking details can be found here (, but to try and reach as many people as possible they are planning to hold workshops in different parts of the UK including:

  • North West of England
  • Northern Ireland
  • Yorkshire/North East of England
  • London and South East of England
  • South West of England
  • Doncaster
  • Scotland
  • Wales

Ok, I admit that most of those locations are slightly vague at the moment, but there will be more  details of dates and venues coming up. If you think a particular location would be useful, why not let me know. I can’t make any promises but it won’t hurt to ask! If you are interested in attending any of these – or want to get in touch about possible locations – please contact

Hope to see you at a Pioneer Workshop soon!

Herefordshire Dementia Friendly Communities Conference


1 Grange Court

On a crisp (ok, very cold) and bright morning it was great to see such a good turnout for the Herefordshire Dementia Friendly Communities Conference at the lovely setting of Grange Court in Leominster on 22nd November. Around 80 people from various organisations, services and locations braved the chilly conditions and were rewarded with a warm welcome and a packed day full of interesting presentations and workshops.

With Phillipa Bruce-Kerr at the helm, we heard first from Professor Dawn Brooker providing an overview of the MeetingDem project and support for Meeting Centres, followed by Jacinta Meighan-Davies and Simon Lennane who informed us about plans for the Herefordshire and Worcestershire dementia strategy for supporting people with dementia and their carers to be diagnosed, live and die well with dementia. The presenters also considered community issues more widely, including isolation and loneliness, especially for older people.

Ginnie Jaques, Penny Allen and Cheryl Poole did a triple act on Dementia Friendly Communities, providing information on the current state of play in Hereford, Leominster and Ross as part of work to make Herefordshire a dementia friendly county.

We also heard about what’s going on in existing Meeting Centres and some of the challenges they’re facing, from the people who run them and their members. Droitwich Spa (Mike Watts), Leominster  (Janette Pudsey, Joy Valentini, Liz Dedman, Dawn Daw), Powys (Yvie George) and Ross (Sue Murphy).

Following a short break we had a whistlestop tour of what’s going on around the county in terms of dementia friendly communities, and it turns out it’s quite a lot!! We heard from 2gether Trust, Admiral Nurses, Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society, Churches2Gether, Co-op, The Courtyard, Everybody Dance, Healthwatch, Herefordshire Care Homes, HVOSS (Herefordshire Voluntary Organisations Support Service), Primary Care Hub, and Services for Independent Living. It was also great to hear from Andy Stevenson about the ‘Usurpers’ group he’s part of, where people with dementia are involved in carrying out audits to see whether places are dementia friendly.

Two rounds of workshops, one before lunch and one after, generated a lot of useful discussion, focusing on four key topics:

  • Making your community dementia friendly
  • Dementia Meeting Centres
  • Carers, relationships and dementia.
  • Arts, culture and dementia – see photo below

6 Arts culture and dementia

There was a good deal of interesting feedback and actions to take forward.

After a tea break a short Tai chi session led by Enid Gill brought the group back together, helping it to focus on next steps with Cheryl and Jacinta.

Many notes were taken and connections made between everyone, showing a real linkage between organisations, services and individuals across the county. Hopefully this event will be just the start of a new phase of activity. To sum up the day, we learnt that it’s all about valuing people, treating them with dignity, having fun, and the importance of proper coffee.

We would like to say a special thank you to the Co-op as the conference was funded by the Co-op Members Community Fund.

Meeting Centres Project – Our first Reference Group meeting

On 23rd October we brought together around 35 core members of the UK Meeting Centres Support Programme Reference Group for its first meeting as part of our new Big Lottery funded Meeting Centre Project.

The Hive  library in Worcester provided a great central location for our group of academics, people engaged in running Meeting Centres, people from the charitable sector, Innovations in Dementia, DEEP, TIDE, NHS and social care statutory sector, commissioners, professional clinicians and care and support providers.

Following a welcome and project overview from our own Professor Dawn Brooker , the group heard about the current Meeting Centre situation in the Netherlands from Professor Rose-Marie Dröes, the founder of Meeting Centres.

1_DB         2_RMD

Breaking the ice – with a tennis racket!

As people were from different backgrounds we had a great icebreaker session. Everyone was invited to bring and share an item representing why they thought they had been invited to be part of the Reference Group, and what they could offer. A very diverse range of items – including a pink tennis racket – emerged from people’s bags, but I think the most impressive was a tattoo of Dory from the ‘Finding Dory’ film.

3_items     4_Dory

Current Meeting Centres in the UK – who’s already doing what?

Representatives from a number of existing (or planned) Meeting Centres spoke to the group to provide an insight into what’s going on in the UK already. We heard from

What we learnt is that there is some fabulous work going on out there. While everyone has a slightly different way of implementing Meeting Centres to fit with their local situation, the common enthusiasm and drive was evident.

A focus on funding

The main theme of the first meeting was funding, considering some of the opportunities and challenges around it. After hearing about how Droitwich Spa and Leominster have coped with the whole funding issue over the past year or so, the Reference Group split into three groups to consider three different aspects of funding:

  • What can each of us do to lever funding or support in kind?
  • What can we do locally or nationally to initiate Meeting Centres?
  • What can we do locally or nationally to sustain Meeting Centres?

Using listening rounds meant that everyone’s views were heard, and gave us a lot of food for thought. It also gave us a lot of information to try and synthesise and summarise!

The Reference Group in the future

Final discussions about the role and membership of the Reference Group proved useful, and the level of interest within the group suggested that we’re on to a good thing. Or maybe we all just enjoy a chance to get together and network…

Either way, we’re going to do it all again in six months’ time with a focus on where Meeting Centres fit in the dementia care pathway and what impact that might have. That doesn’t mean we’ll be quiet in the meantime though as we’ll be looking to involve subgroups from the overall Reference Group as and when we need to across all strands of the project.

Many thanks to everyone who made the day such a success, creating a positive and supportive environment for sharing our ideas.

Dementia Friendly East Lothian Annual Gathering 2018


Living not Existing

 I was delighted to be invited to introduce Meeting Centres at the East Lothian Gathering which took place on the 10th and 11th October in Haddington. Sue Northrup is the driving force behind Dementia Friendly East Lothian and was inspirational from the outset in organising this event at the Maitland House Hotel.

40 people living with dementia and carers attended on Day 1 and discussions were facilitated by Paul from DEEP and Beau and Mark from TIDE.  Participants came from towns across East Lothian – Haddington, Port Seton/Cockenzie, Musselbrugh, Dunbar, Aberlady, Longniddry and North Berwick. The photo above is of the amazing Agnes Houston who was busy here meeting and greeting.

The aim was to get together, share friendship, thoughts, talk about what matters to people and have fun as well as to open up the conversation around Meeting Centres. A range of priorities were collated and discussed in the afternoon with a view to taking them forward to Day 2 which is exactly what happened.

Some of the people from Day 1 continued to Day 2 and representatives from 25 organisations across the region welcomed them. I gave an overview of Meeting Centres, how they started, where they are now and the Big Lottery funded Meeting Centre support programme, how this can support people and organisations to set up Centres. After a question and answer session there was a workshop where each table discussed whether there is a desire and need for Meeting Centres, what opportunities and challenges there are and who you would invite to a meeting to take this forward.

Next steps include planning for a gathering as part of the Meeting Centre Support Programme in early Spring 2019 focussed on the outcomes and progress of community conversations.

I would like to extend a massive thanks for the enthusiasm and energy of everyone present and not least Sue Northrup for inviting me to this wonderful gathering.