Last week our Whose Shoes?® workshops in Kent were switching between Tunbridge Wells and Malling – we are using different facilitators, different venues, days of the week and times of day, but maintaining the same energy and passion to make connections that lead to a better quality of life for people living with dementia and their carers in the local area.
It was a hard act to follow. The previous Friday had been a bit special – the launch of dementia friendly Tunbridge Wells as part of Dementia Awareness Week – a Whose Shoes?® workshop in the morning followed by a jive party in the afternoon.
And fab Carrie Lewis from New Possibilities as our facilitator-who-couldn’t help-doing-a-bit-of-graphic-recording!
I was disappointed not to be able to go to myself as I had originally planned to stay overnight after attending the ‘Shared leadership’ event at the King’s Fund the previous day.
We are still receiving news and feedback from the events, including these excellent photos by David Hodgkinson Photography and TCHG Foundation. We literally put the flags out at our events and I have rather childishly assembled, in true “Where’s Wally?” style, the photos which include Whose Shoes?® bunting or graphics from our events.I hope you enjoy ‘spotting’ them 😉
It is sometimes hard for people to bother to ‘turn out’ in the evenings after work or an otherwise busy day. Free events often mean that people decide that, after all at the last minute, there is something more pressing or interesting or indeed leisurely to do. But our sessions have continued to be very well subscribed and we are keen to work out why as we need to bottle the winning formula.
Perhaps it is that we have a very serious subject, but people are encouraged to speak openly and have a bit of fun
Perhaps it is to do with spreading the word – and most importantly having the participants leaving with the feeling that THEY want to spread the word.
It certainly helps that people can see the points they are making being recorded live. We have cashed in on some local enthusiasm to learn a bit of graphic recording, paid for a crash course, and watched Sandra Springett and Alison Waters go from 0-60 very fast, and having a lot of fun in the process. A truly assets-based approach, which is again central to the Whose Shoes?® philosophy. The graphic record provides a powerful reminder of key messages and encourages people to make pledges and follow up with actions
Perhaps it is the fact that we are collecting pledges as after all, there is not much point in simply ‘raising awareness’ unless something different in the way of positive action happens as a result.
But overall, I think our winning ingredient is the passion and sheer energy that surround the project, and involving people living with dementia and their carers. “Nothing about us without us” can seem a bit hollow at times and we are doing our best to make our work engaging and inclusive.
People are telling their friends and colleagues about the sessions and how they need to get involved. From our launch event, we have had councillors telling their fellow councillors and constituents; the WI asking for information to pass to their members; bus drivers wanting dementia training. And many more direct outcomes. Fires lit, seeds sown, pebbles in ponds or whatever other analogies and mixed metaphors appeal to you 😉
It is sometimes hard to quantify imaginative approaches where anyone walking in can feel that something a bit special is going on but where the atmosphere cannot be bottled and measured.
I like to think this is true of our Whose Shoes?® events but it is certainly true of the Healthy Living Club. Regular readers will be aware of our close relationship with the club and support and our joy when a previous funding application was successful. It breaks my heart that they still have to spend so much of their time living from hand to mouth and struggling for funding when I would love them to spend ALL of their time doing what they do best – providing a wonderfully inclusive, happy community club for people living with dementia in their local area.
So, after all that, what has this got to do with Waitrose in Paddock Wood?
As I say in my tweet, local information is so very important. Supermarkets may advertise on TV, put posters up in the shopping precincts, but they can’t buy this kind of word-of mouth recommendation.
So, in terms of how Whose Shoes?® aims to light fires and help them spread… I have no idea if this will happen but I would like to invite people to comment – perhaps even write a guest blog. Can someone from Waitrose in Paddock Wood tell us what they are doing that is special? Is it a deliberate ‘dementia friendly’ company policy? – or is it good, consistent customer service for all customers, including those who happen to be living with dementia, which somehow seems more inclusive to me. 😉 Or does this store just happen to have a nice bunch of staff with big hearts?
Similarly, would the people who attended the workshop, or any other local people, tell us what makes this shopping experience good in practice – in what ways do people living with dementia feel comfortable and supported?
And for others, please tell us about your shopping experiences – what helps people living with dementia and their carers or what makes them never want to set foot outside the house again?
Because stigma can make you feel like that. And there is still a lot of stigma surrounding having a dementia.