Bid writing and funding workshop

Last week we went to a workshop looking at ‘Bid writing for charities and community groups’ which had been organised by the Worcester City Council Historic Environment Record Officer as part of the Worcester Life Stories project that we’ve been evaluating. We went there with two hats on really, firstly to see what advice and tips we could pick up for ourselves as it’s always good to keep learning about how to improve our bid writing, and secondly to see how the information could be useful to other groups that we work with – Meeting Centres, we’re looking at you here!

The workshop was run by Get Grants, an organisation that provides practical support and advice to groups looking to write and submit bids and funding applications. As well as training sessions, they share funding updates via social media (@Get_Grants on Twitter), run online ‘meet the funder’ events and taster training sessions, and have a newsletter which gives ideas about potential funders.

It was a great interactive workshop combining whole group discussions and practical small group exercises, getting us thinking about some of the do’s and don’ts of bid writing, common mistakes to avoid, and ways to strengthen our bid writing skills to (hopefully!) increase the chance of bids being successful. We looked at how to find potential funders and the importance of doing your own research into the funders to make sure your application doesn’t fall at the first hurdle.

There was also the opportunity to review and assess some example funding applications, allowing us to put our new knowledge into practice by seeing it from a funder’s perspective. The exercise really helped to see how just a few small changes can make a big difference to how an application could be assessed.

It was also nice to meet up with people with a range of experiences from different disciplines beyond dementia, as it gave a fresh view and triggered new ideas for us to think about. We came away enthused with lots of new knowledge to feed into what we’re currently doing. We’ve got plenty of ideas to share with groups such as Meeting Centres, although we’d also suggest exploring the Get Grants website to have a look at what they offer, especially the free resources such as their funding finder, virtual events and ability to watch recordings from previous events.

Definitely a day well spent, so thanks to everyone involved.

Meeting Centres family blanket

Sometimes we have slightly crazy ideas, and this week it’s time to tell you a bit more about our latest one!

When we see photos from Meeting Centres being shared on social media, we often see lots of arts and crafts and creativity taking place, and one recent comment from a member about what they would like to do was “we could make a blanket”. Suffice to say, these sorts of things get us thinking, and we’ve come up with a plan to create a Meeting Centres UK family blanket.

We’re inviting Meeting Centres from across the UK to work with their members and carers to create squares that represent their Meeting Centre and what it means to them, send them to us, and we’ll bring them all together to create a blanket.

As luck would have it, we’re hosting an event to share the findings from our ‘Get Real with Meeting Centres’ research in mid-July, which will be the perfect opportunity to display the blanket and celebrate how far Meeting Centres have come.

We’ll be doing our bit too, creating a few squares on behalf of the Meeting Centres UK project team here at the Association for Dementia Studies, and one of those squares is already underway!

Photo showing a partially complete white crochet square with red lettering starting to spell out ‘Meeting Centres UK’

To find out more about the details, please see our flyer

We hope Meeting Centres across the UK get involved and get creative, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with.

New Meeting Centre videos available

We mentioned these briefly in a recent blog, but thought that really they deserved a blog of their own. As part of our Worcestershire Meeting Centres Community Support Programme we were fortunate to be able to use a small amount of the funding provided by Worcestershire County Council to create two short videos to help promote Meeting Centres.

The two videos were aimed at different audiences, namely potential members and carers, and referrers. The purpose of the videos was to give people a better idea of what goes on at a Meeting Centre and some of the benefits that people experience through attending a Meeting Centre. It’s not practical for everyone to visit a Meeting Centre to see what they are like for themselves, so hopefully the videos can give a bit of a flavour and encourage more people to get involved.

To create the videos we worked with Sean Macreavy media who was able to visit several of the new Meeting Centres across Worcestershire that have benefitted from funding as part of the Worcestershire Meeting Centres Community Support Programme, and capture the views of members, carers, staff and volunteers. It was a tricky task to whittle the recordings down to two short videos, but at the same time it was great to hear how positive everyone was and almost be spoilt for choice in terms of wonderful content. However, we did manage to finalise the two videos, and we’d love you to see them.

Although they were filmed in Worcestershire, we hope that they could be used to help promote Meeting Centres across the UK, so get sharing them! Maybe you know someone who would benefit from attending a Meeting Centre but isn’t too sure what they are. Or perhaps you’ve got links with potential referrers who need a reminder that Meeting Centres exist…

Obviously, all Meeting Centres are welcome to create their own videos – and I know regular clips are shared on social media – and we’re all for that, the more the merrier! Let’s not be shy, but shout about what’s going on and let people see why we’re all so passionate about Meeting Centres.

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

Keep up to date with all things Meeting Centres by following @MeetingCentres on twitter.

Another week, another Meeting Centre visit

After our recent visit to the Meeting Centres in South Gloucestershire and Bristol, we were delighted to have the opportunity to visit the Malvern Link Meeting Centre. Based in the Link Room at St Matthias Church, Malvern, the Meeting Centre is open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Although Dr Shirley Evans and Jen Bray had both been to the Meeting Centre before, it was the first time they’d visited since Es Hoyle had taken over as manager. It was also their first opportunity to meet Es in person, so it was lovely to sit and have a proper catch up about how things were going before the Meeting Centre opened for the day.

It was a very relaxed morning with Es and her volunteers welcoming people and getting some group discussions going. Tea and coffee were plentiful, and members enjoyed some jam tarts made the previous day during a Valentine’s Day baking session. Es had planned a hearty soup for lunch, but the celeriac and onion needed to be prepared. A member and volunteer made short work of these, peeling and chopping away, and quickly reducing them to manageable chunks ready for cooking. The smell of the soup bubbling away filled the air as different games and activities took place, and when it was ready everyone sat together and tucked in, with the soup being accompanied by some lovely bread that had been donated earlier in the day. Even those who had brought their own sandwiches looked like they’d been tempted to have some soup as well.

Shirley and Jen had to leave at lunchtime, which was a shame as we think they were looking forward to seeing ‘Mr Charisma’ who was coming in to provide some singing entertainment that afternoon. According to a board that Es had set up to advertise future activities, seated curling and a putting green would be available the following week – along with some very tasty food options – leaving Shirley and Jen to wonder if a repeat visit might be possible…!

Thanks to Es and everyone at the Malvern Link Meeting Centre for hosting and making us feel very welcome.

Follow @MeetingCentres on twitter to keep up to date with all things Meeting Centre related.

A (Meeting Centres) day tripper

Last week Dr Shirley Evans and Jennifer Bray set out on a cold and frosty morning and headed to Bristol for a mini Meeting Centre tour. Here’s how they got on…

After meeting up with Louise Spencer, Dementia Meeting Centres Project Manager and Dementia Health Integration Team Co-ordinator with Alive, who coordinates Meeting Centres in the area, we had the pleasure of spending the morning at the South Gloucestershire Meeting Centre in Bradley Stoke. We got to meet the Meeting Centre manager Winsome Barratt-Muir for the first time which was lovely, and after a proper catch up with Louise were able to meet the members and carers who attend. As well as joining in some of their activities, we got the opportunity to tell them a bit about the wider research around Meeting Centres and how they came to the UK, hopefully helping them to see that they are part of the ever-expanding Meeting Centre family.

A lovely bit of music and gentle exercise got us up and moving, although the feathers did end up being used as tickling sticks and for a mock duel at one point! It was great to see the friendships and social connections that have formed within the group, and we felt very welcome. Sadly we had to leave just as a light lunch was being organised for everyone to share, but based on stories about how much the group enjoys a relaxing, leisurely lunch we might never have got away!!

Photo showing several people being silly with large colourful feathers

A short distance away in North Bristol, Louise introduced us to the Bristol Meeting Centre. We joined towards the end of a discussion about the Cavern Club in Liverpool, where manager Sally O’Doherty and her colleague Michelle were getting everyone thinking about some of the musicians who used to perform there. It was in preparation for a special event in the afternoon, but more on that later!

This time we did have lunch, which was a lovely experience. Everyone brought their own sandwiches or soup, but we sat together around a table and lots of different conversations took place between various groups. After we had cleared everything away, the chairs were rearranged for a musical performance by a special guest, the wonderful Emily from Mini Concerts. Emily had been to the Meeting Centre before to sing songs from the 1940’s, but this time her set focused on Mersey Beats. It picked up on many of the earlier discussions about the Cavern Club and different musicians, and we were treated to an amazing concert featuring songs by The Beatles, Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers and others.

Toes were tapped, hands were clapped (and jived!), and there was even some twisting and dancing going on as everyone sang along. I have to admit, it really didn’t feel like we were at work, but we thoroughly enjoyed it and it was great to see the group having a wonderful time too.

A series of three photos showing people sat watching the singer, memorabilia relating to the Mersey Beat theme such as a ticket for the Cavern Club, and a wider view of everyone sat watching the singer

We had a fabulous, uplifting and really inspiring day seeing the work that the Alive team is doing (sorry we weren’t able to come as see you as well in the North Somerset Meeting Centres Anne, hopefully next time!). Definitely the highlight of our week. Thanks to Louise, Winsome, Sally and the other staff and volunteers who made the day so great, and to all the members and carers for welcoming us in.

Find out more about Meeting Centres on twitter @MeetingCentres

Meeting Centres UK – latest news

t’s been a while since we’ve given an update on what’s going on with Meeting Centres, so here goes!

As mentioned in a previous blog, two projects focusing on Meeting Centres are coming to an end soon, but that doesn’t mean our work will be ending – far from it! After the end of the ‘Embed’ phase of our Meeting Centres work we’ll be continuing to work on Meeting Centres, primarily focusing on keeping our existing Meeting Centre network going and continuing to support new Meeting Centres to get up and running. Also, once we’ve got our findings and outputs from the Get Real with Meeting Centres project we’ll be looking to disseminate them to different audiences.

We’re very pleased to announce that we now have two new videos about Meeting Centres, created as part of the work we’re doing with the Worcestershire Meeting Centres. They’re aimed at two different audiences to give a flavour of what goes on at Meeting Centres and how they can benefit those who attend.

There’s been a lot of action in Scotland, with the Scottish Meeting Centre Network getting up and going with regular meetings.

We’re hearing about new Meeting Centres about to open in various parts of England, but we can’t tell you about all of them yet! A couple that we can mention are in Totton, Hampshire and Tipton. Needless to say, our blog from a few months ago is well and truly out of date!

We’re trying to keep a list of Meeting Centres on our blog site, so wish us luck with that. (If you’ve been missed off the list, please contact with the relevant details and we can get your Meeting Centre on there)

The next cohort of our online Meeting Centres training starts in April, and we’ve already had quite a few people registering for it. We’re also exploring various options around training, so we’ll let you know about those in due course.

Several Meeting Centres are hosting or have hosted student placements, linking up with local universities and colleges, and these seem to be working well for all involved.

New funding bids are being written and submitted to look at different aspects either focusing on or relating to Meeting Centres, so hopefully there will be a lot more to report on in the future.

There are probably lots of other things that I’ve missed (or can’t say just yet!), but that’s probably enough to be going on with for now.

Connect with Meeting Centres on twitter @MeetingCentres

Standing on the shoulders of giants

In the final Meeting Centres webinar of 2022 we got a bit nostalgic by taking a look back at how far the work around Meeting Centres has come in the UK, as well as looking at current work and plans for the future.

Dr Shirley Evans, Interim Director of the Association for Dementia Studies (ADS) and guru of all things Meeting Centre-related, began the webinar by providing a bit of history about Meeting Centres and how they came to be in the UK. Shirley recognised the roles of Professor Rose-Marie Dröes and Emeritus Professor Dawn Brooker MBE, showing the two following short videos to provide context and extra information about Meeting Centres.

It was interesting to see how much progress has been made since the videos were originally filmed, not just in the UK but also in the Netherlands, and also what has remained constant such as the underpinning ethos of supporting people to adjust to the changes brought about by a dementia diagnosis and the Essential Features of a Meeting Centre.

Shirley handed over to Jennifer Bray, ADS Research Assistant, who picked up on some of the points raised in the video clips to reiterate how Meeting Centres first came to the UK and how various research projects have supported their development and spread. The current focus is on the Community of Learning and Practice where people at different stages of setting up and running Meeting Centres can ask questions and share their knowledge and experiences, as well as updating and maintaining resources that were developed as part of the original Meeting Centres research.

Slide showing the progression between different Meeting Centre projects from the 1990's in the Netherlands to the present

An important factor of Meeting Centres is that they are evidence based, so Jen provided a summary highlighting some of the main findings from the research so far, such as improved self-esteem, feelings of happiness and sense of belonging for people with dementia, and family carers experiencing less burden and feeling better able to cope. The spread of Meeting Centres across the UK was also acknowledged, starting with one pilot in Droitwich Spa, moving to further demonstrator sites in Leominster, Powys and Kirriemuir, and now being at around 50 UK Meeting Centres with more emerging almost on a weekly basis.

Jen finished by looking at the possible scope for research involving Meeting Centres, ranging from Meeting Centres being the core focus of a project, to Meeting Centres being used as an example alongside other services, or as a place to pilot different interventions with a group of people affected by dementia.

Slide showing the different ways in which Meeting Centres might be involved in research

Research Associate Thomas Morton picked up the baton and talked about some of the research that has involved Meeting Centres in various ways. For example, SCI-Dem included Meeting Centres as an example of a community-based intervention, we’ve got a PhD studentship focusing on Meeting Centres, the Worcestershire Meeting Centre Community Support Programme aimed to set up multiple Meeting Centres across Worcestershire, and the Leominster Meeting Centre Heritage Project used the Meeting Centre as a base for various heritage-related interventions.

Thomas provided a bit more detail about our ongoing ‘Get Real with Meeting Centres’ project which is due to end in early 2023. Although it’s been the topic of a previous webinar, it was useful to have a recap of the project and view it in light of the evolution of Meeting Centre research in the UK. It’s looking at the experiences of people attending, running and support Meeting Centres and is currently in the process of analysing all of the data to find out what it all means! Based on what people are saying, the findings will be focusing on four main areas or ‘systems’:

  • Membership
  • Finance
  • Internal relationships
  • External relationships

Thomas and the team will be exploring each area in greater detail to identify different aspects (with supporting quotes from the data) relating to sustainability. An example is shown below.

Slide showing the four areas or systems, a breakdown of 'membership' and an example saying 'IF use of a venue is not fixed - THEN this may discourage members - BECAUSE they will find it disorientating and upsetting and may not have confidence in the MCs future' plus a selection of quotes to support this view

We will be pulling all of the information together around a number of different themes, and producing a series of recommendations to (hopefully) help Meeting Centres be more sustainable in the future. These will be disseminated through various project outputs with different audiences in mind.

Slide showing some of the themes arising, such as 'Membership: What's attractive to people, what might put people off, issues with referrals, links with H&SC etc.' and 'Venue choices and location issues (inc. transport and rurality)'.

Thomas ended his section by looking at potential future Meeting Centre-related research, mentioning a current bid looking at the role of food in different settings, where Meeting Centres are included alongside other initiatives such as dementia cafes and lunch clubs. Similarly, other ideas such as physical activity could use Meeting Centres as an example or base for piloting possible interventions.

Shirley brought the webinar presentation to an end by pulling everything together in an overall summary. Ultimately, in the past eight years there has been significant progress and developments across the UK, despite the pandemic.

Slide summarising some of the main achievements around Meeting Centres, such as 'over 50 funded MCs with significant momentum in a number of areas' and 'the development of a 5-week online course for MC staff, volunteers and trustees which has now run four times and has evaluated very positively'.

We’re currently working on a three- and five-year plan to consolidate the current national and regional networks, with some activities being devolved to different nations. We’re hoping to get to a point where there is a self-sustaining model in place, and a central body established to provide continuity, connection and quality assurance.

Our overall vision though? To have a Meeting Centre in every town.

Thanks to our presenters, and if you missed the webinar or want to watch it again you can find the recording here.

It’s all about the research!

The penultimate Meeting Centre webinar took place on 28th October with a focus on research and data collection, and it captured a range of different perspectives. Following a welcome by Interim Director Dr Shirley Evans who has been heavily involved in Meeting Centres for the past eight years, the first presenter was Jen Bray, Research Assistant at the Association for Dementia Studies (ADS), who provided an overview of research around Meeting Centres. She began by looking at the first research project back in 2014 which build on original work from the Netherlands and brought Meeting Centres to the UK. The research identified multiple benefits to both people with dementia (members) and their families (carers), and provided the evidence that Meeting Centres aren’t just a nice idea but do actually make a difference.

Image showing a slide which has a summary of the key findings from the previous Meeting Centre work

Jen continued by looking at subsequent research projects helping to promote the spread of Meeting Centres and embed them in their communities, as well as those where Meeting Centres may not be the main focus but involved as a place to host or deliver various interventions. For example, in the Leominster Meeting Centre Heritage project the research was not about Meeting Centres, but was about local artists coming in and working with Meeting Centre members on individual projects. Looking ahead, Meeting Centres are also being included in future research bids, some of which are currently being developed and others are ones we’re waiting to hear back about. Jen recognised that it’s important to be aware not to overload Meeting Centres by being involved in too much research, but at the same time balance that risk against the benefits of research. Some projects can provide additional funding for Meeting Centres, and also provide exciting opportunities for members and carers to try new activities and have different experiences.

Image of a slide showing a variety of past and present research projects involving Meeting Centres, plus a bit to say that Meeting Centres have a role in future funding bids

A key factor of research is getting the data to provide supporting evidence, but it isn’t always easy for Meeting Centres. It’s impractical for ADS to do the data collection by visiting each Meeting Centre across the UK, especially as the number of Meeting Centres is increasing, so it falls to the Meeting Centres themselves to collect data. To help Meeting Centres we have developed a toolkit of data collection forms and information, including a wider suite of forms to support Meeting Centres if they haven’t got anything else in place, such as a ‘Getting to know you’ style form for members and carers. Jen also delivers online sessions to talk through the data collection forms and process and the team are always available to help with any queries. It was important to note that when ADS was deciding what data we recommend Meeting Centres collect, it was based on what has previously been asked for in funding bids as it needs to be useful for Meeting Centres as well as providing research evidence.

In terms of the data collection, Jen talked briefly about the five main areas, which cover basic attendance and demographic data about new and leaving members and carers, the impact of Meeting Centres on people’s wellbeing, what people like about Meeting Centres and where there may be room for improvement, case studies to provide a human angle as supporting evidence for funding bids, and important contextual information to see how Meeting Centres relate to their local community.

Image of a slide showing the five main areas of data collection

Jen concluded her part by looking at how data collection helps Meeting Centres. By acting as a central hub for all of the data, ADS is able to provide summary reports back to Meeting Centres to feed into their funding bids. This can be about an individual Meeting Centre, or giving the wider UK picture, so the data benefits a whole host of current and future Meeting Centres. It also helps more broadly by feeding into other projects, which neatly tied in with the next part of the webinar which was led by Dr Ruby Swift.

Ruby is working on a particular Work Package within the ‘Get Real with Meeting Centres’ project, which has a focus on seeing who is and isn’t been reached by Meeting Centres, and the potential barriers preventing people from attending a Meeting Centre. This part of the work draws on the attendance and demographic data captured by Meeting Centres, with a focus on those in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and compares it with government, Local Authority and NHS data. In addition, Ruby talked about the interviews and focus groups she’s been conducting with people with dementia and family carers who don’t attend Meeting Centres, Meeting Centre staff, and health and social care professionals to capture a range of perspectives.

Image of a slide showing the research questions for the Get Real project and the Work Package Ruby is working on

Ruby is still in the process of analysing all the information but shared some emerging findings based on the available data, recognising that some records are incomplete and different Meeting Centres have been operating for different periods. The findings are shown on the slide below.

Image showing a slide of the initial findings from Ruby's work, such as 76% of members were aged 75+ at the time of joining a Meeting Centre

In terms of next steps for the work Ruby is doing, she’s going to be producing a report on the demographic data, including a map to show where people who attend Meeting Centres live. She will also be analysing the interview and focus group transcripts to explore the themes and findings around potential barriers to attendance in order to develop a set of recommendations.

Following on from Ruby was Sally Dance from the Evesham and District Meeting Centre, who talked us through the data collection activities they do and some of the challenges and benefits they’ve encountered. At the Meeting Centre the team completes daily forms to capture member and carer attendance, and these feed into a monthly summary which is fed back to ADS. They also used forms from the wider toolkit to get to know members and carers when they first join the Meeting Centre. The team has put in their own GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) processes with a privacy notice to cover any information that they record about individuals.

Once members and carers have settled in at the Meeting Centre the evaluation forms are completed (with people who want to get involved as they are voluntary), and these are repeated every six months. These repeated forms are combined with the satisfaction forms to find out what people do and don’t like about the Meeting Centre. Sally felt that the forms are valuable as they help staff to know what is going on and see changes over time.

However, they have experienced a few challenges around data collection, with time being the main issue. At Evesham they have quite a big team, but Sally could see that in smaller teams with fewer staff and volunteers it would be difficult to collect data. Sally also recognised the importance of getting to know the members and carers as this makes it easier to know whether it is appropriate for some individuals to get involved. For example, if it would cause stress or distress for people, if carers live a long way away, or if personal situations would make it too much of a challenge. It was also useful for Sally to acknowledge that answering the data collection questions can sometimes be emotional for people as they may make them reflect on their situation and what is going on.

Despite these challenges, Sally also recognised that there were also lots of benefits of being involved in data collection. For example, people can enjoy spending time with staff one-to-one and having the opportunity to talk about how they feel and what they enjoy. It can help to provide reassurance, build confidence, and give people a sense of worth as their voices are being heard and valued. The data collection toolkit also helps staff to assess a person’s journey and see changes over time. In addition, data collection activities can help staff to pick up on and explore potential issues, and maybe even offer a route in to addressing them by providing the space and opportunity for members and carers to open up and talk about any concerns.

Overall, Sally found that data collection was valuable as it helps to shape Meeting Centres now and in the future, but appreciated that it does need some thought put into it rather than just charging in.

Graham Galloway from Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre was the final presenter and began by echoing the points Sally had raised. The main data collection contact at Kirrie Connections is Jacqui Dillon whose previous background and skill set was very useful in terms of helping the Meeting Centre get to grips with their data collection activities. They use the same toolkit as the Evesham Meeting Centre, and have also put in place a data sharing agreement and process to support work they do with other organisations and referrers. The Meeting Centre has recently implemented CharityLog, which is a database to support them with capturing and recording their data. It has streamlined their data collection and reporting, and also helps to flag up when repeated forms are due to be completed.

Graham said that the data and research evidence has been helpful when getting buy-in from funders and the Scottish Government, especially as statutory funders tend to be focused on quantitative information. He had recently asked Jen at ADS for a report to cover specific information in a particular format as requested by a funder, and shared some of the report during the webinar. As well as being important for funders, this has been very useful for the Meeting Centre as it has helped to flag up potential issues that they may wish to investigate. For example, why some members may feel less engaged in being asked what they would like to do.

One interesting point raised by Graham was around difficulties in getting baseline data collected, as although staff have to judge when it is appropriate for individuals and don’t want to bombard them with paperwork, they also don’t want to leave it too late as they can see an immediate difference in some people when they walk through the Meeting Centre door on the first day.

Thanks to everyone who presented and shared their thoughts. If you would like to find out more about the Meeting Centre data collection you can have a look at the relevant page on the Meeting Centre blog site. A recording of the webinar is also available if you missed it or want to watch it again – link to recording.

The final webinar in the Meeting Centre series will take place on 25th November, 12pm, and is called ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’ where it will be looking at where we’ve come from, what’s been achieved so far and what’s next. Please see the website for more details.

Alzheimer Europe Conference

In mid-October 2022 Alzheimer Europe, an umbrella organisation of 41 national Alzheimer’s associations from 37 European countries, held their annual conference, for the first time in two years. The conference, which took place in Bucharest, Romania for the second time, was in person and on-line and brought together people, professionals, and institutions (government and non-government alike) around a shared mission to “change perceptions, policy, and practice in order to improve the lives of people affected by dementia”.

Association for Dementia Studies duo Dr Shirley Evans and PhD student Nathan Stephens attended, as well as having the opportunity to present their work at the conference. In this week’s blog they provide a whistle-stop summary of their key highlights and reflections of what was a packed programme.


Before the conference ‘officially’ began INTERDEM, the international network of researchers and practitioners to promote research and spreading of psycho-social interventions in dementia, held their annual meeting.

A series of short presentations from INTERDEM members highlighted the breadth of work facilitated through the network that is promoting high-quality dementia care through international collaboration. Be sure to check out their web page for past and present projects and publications.

Calls went out for delegates to support numerous existing taskforces, including assistive technology, social health, methodology, primary prevention, and new ones like inequalities and workforce. There was real sense that the INTERDEM meeting offers a space in which the seeds of social change can be sewn, and as one member warned “you may return from the meet with more work than when you left”. 

The work of INTERDEM members was presented in break-out rooms, including by Nathan and Shirley who presented separately (and in different rooms) on their work with Meeting Centres.

Nathan shared some early findings of his PhD research around the costs and benefits of scaling up community-based interventions for people affected by dementia. If you would like to know more check out one of our earlier blogs, but in summary Nathan highlighted the many individual and societal benefits of implementing community support at scale in a more systematic way, and also areas that could be improved to create more value.

Shirley presented on the essential features of Meeting Centres – development of the UK criteria for community support for people affected by dementia. Shirley spoke about how the essential features were examined within a concept analysis framework, which combines both static and evolutionary methods, enabling multiple stakeholder groups to be included in the process in an iterative manner.

Eleven essential features were developed, providing a conceptual model of the UK Meeting Centres. The underpinning rationale is sufficiently flexible to enable community-based development, while at the same time providing a robust platform upon which to build the evidence base. Shirley acknowledged Professor Rose-Marie Droes for initiating Meeting Centres and also Professor Dawn Brooker for leading the Association for Dementia Studies and the initial implementation of Meeting Centres in the UK.

Shirley also presented alongside Graham Galloway from Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre and Ron Coleman from Deepness Radio on national and regional approaches to implementation and development of Meeting Centres in the UK. Significant national and regional developments have taken place over the last three years including in Worcestershire, England led by the Association for Dementia Studies, in Scotland led by Kirrie Connections and in Powys, Wales led by Dementia Matters in Powys. This has been driven by different policy decisions and funding opportunities across the three nations. In addition, the involvement of people affected by dementia is of paramount importance. As Ron explained, in Scotland this is being driven forward with a strategy board made up of a third people living with dementia, a third family carers and a third other interested parties.

Image showing the presenters sat at a table with slides projected onto a screen behind htem
Ron, Shirley and Graham with other presenters
Photo showing the conference attendees stood on a sweeping white staircase

Alzheimer Europe

No conference is complete without a punchy theme, and this year it was ‘building bridges’, coined in light of the global challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and wider geo-political issues such as the war in Ukraine, a neighbour of Romania. Many, many, and many more bridge-based analogies and puns were made during the three days, however one which received a hearty applause (for all the wrong reasons) was Jan Steyaert’s ‘truss bridge’ reference to the, then, UK PM Liz Truss. Suggesting there was still some structural work to be done on the design of the truss bridge, and lo and behold, they were right.

Image showing drawings of different styles of bridge, including a truss bridge

Away from witty analogies of bridges, dementia, and UK politics, there were some hugely insightful and serious sessions. We’ve picked out just two, however recordings of all the sessions can be accessed via the Alzheimer Europe website. 

Applying an intersectionality lens in dementia care research

Chaired by Martina Roes, the session presented results from a number of research projects that use intersectionality to understand more about racial discrimination of Turkish caregivers and the communication needs of migrant carers, for example. Intersectionality has been defined as “a concept that seeks to explore how social locations and identities converge to create conditions of inequality and privilege that intersect to result in more or less social capital and privilege” (Roes et al., 2022). Support and use of the intersectionality lens has burgeoned in recent times as inequalities and the diversity of populations has increased.

The session concluded with an honest account of the challenges of applying intersectionality in the context of dementia by Saloua Berdai Chaouni. They suggested that by appreciating, holistically, the social categories and power structures that shape people’s lived experience and research, intersectionality can be used as a framework to capture the complexity of the dementia care relationship and go beyond culturally sensitive to reduce inequalities.

Building bridges, our voices, our lives

The Alzheimer Europe working group of people with dementia hosted a session in which the chair and all speakers were, rightly, people living with dementia. Perhaps unsurprising, this was hugely popular and attendance was well above maximum capacity. Chair Chris Roberts (UK) introduced speakers who, one by one, gave extremely moving, charismatic, and motivational accounts of their lived experience.

Angela Pototschnigg (Austria) and Kevin Quaid (Ireland) spoke about both public- and self-stigma, and the need to do more to improve awareness among the public and professionals and remove the taboo of dementia in our communities and social networks.

Under the Equalities Act receiving a diagnosis of dementia doesn’t mean you have to leave your job, yet many people are asked to leave their workplace following a diagnosis. Eral Jonsdottir (Iceland) shared their experience of this complex phenomenon and the importance of work to foster a sense of citizenship, purpose, and normality, not just in people living with dementia, but people full stop.

Other speakers included Nigel Hullah (UK) who highlighted the worth of co-production to improve our services and understanding how we should develop new ones. Co-production explains a working structure and process whereby people with lived experience work alongside researchers and practitioners.

Chris ended by introducing two new members of the working group, and in four simple words, “don’t they look normal”, emphasised the underpinning narrative of the session: life shouldn’t, and doesn’t, end when you receive a diagnosis of dementia.


Roes, M., Laporte Uribe, F., Peters-Nehrenheim, V. et al. Intersectionality and its relevance for research in dementia care of people with a migration background. Z Gerontol Geriat 55, 287–291 (2022).

Thanks to Nathan and Shirley for giving us an insight into the conference.

New Meeting Centre training coming up

Over the past few years we’ve been delivering training to help staff and volunteers who are looking to set up a new Meeting Centre, with the training being online since the start of the pandemic. Our latest course is about to start in a couple of weeks, but we’re pleased to say that we can now offer three further courses next year.

On each course you’ll learn about Meeting Centres, find out more about the ‘Adjusting to Change’ model which is the underpinning ethos behind Meeting Centres, learn about psycho-social support and physical activity, and how to support family members and friends. The courses combine video clips, activities, discussion boards, live sessions, reading and useful resources, most of which can be done at a time to suit you.

You won’t be able to book onto the courses just yet, but we thought we’d let you know the dates so you can get them in your diary if you’re interested or just starting to think about Meeting Centres.

Cohort 1 – April

  • Week 1 03/04/23
  • Week 2 10/04/23
  • Week 3 17/04/23
  • Week 4 24/04/23
  • Week 5 01/05/23

Live sessions will take place on Thursdays 1-2pm. There will also be two follow-up supervision sessions on 06/07/23 and 05/10/23

Cohort 2 – July

  • Week 1 03/07/23
  • Week 2 10/07/23
  • Week 3 17/07/23
  • Week 4 24/07/23
  • Week 5 31/07/23

Live sessions will take place on Wednesdays 10-11am. There will also be two follow-up supervision sessions on 04/10/23 and 10/01/24

Cohort 3 – October/November

  • Week 1 30/10/23
  • Week 2 06/11/23
  • Week 3 13/11/23
  • Week 4 20/11/23
  • Week 5 27/11/23

***please note the following has been updated***

Live sessions will take place on Tuesdays 10-11am (except for Week 2 when it will be on the Monday). There will also be two follow-up supervision sessions in January and June 2024.

We’ll promote each course closer to the start dates and update our website in due course, so keep an eye out for further communication next year.