Louise Bryning, of the Lancaster Dukes, explains the benefits of Age UK Lancashire’s arts initiative
“Sometimes it’s difficult to go out because it’s hard to make conversations but here everyone is in the same boat and you don’t feel awkward.”
Val Hayes and her husband Jack have just enjoyed a screening of a classic George Formby film at The Dukes cinema in Lancaster.
Films are a feature of a pioneering project – Journeying Together – which The Dukes and Age UK Lancashire have worked on since 2012 as part of a drive to create dementia-friendly communities.
The project reached the national finals of the Ageing Well Challenge and has received funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
But most importantly, the scheme has received praise from those who benefit from it – older people with memory problems, their relatives and friends.
Mrs Hayes added: “All the facilities are there for you and we’ve found everything top notch. We’ve never felt uncomfortable or out of place. It’s nice that there are things like this going on. You don’t feel as isolated.”
Research has shown that people with dementia and their relatives often struggle to find opportunities to socialise and worry that they won’t be welcome in public places.
Journeying Together events, such as the Journey Café, provide access to the arts and entertainment in a comfortable welcoming environment.
Other people who enjoyed the Journey Café and George Formby film were Pat Craig and her husband, Ian.
Pat said: “It was a lovely afternoon and it was so nice to laugh, because so often people don’t know what to say to you, so to just sit there and let yourself go was lovely.”
Pat and Ian also enjoyed relieving their wartime memories with agricultural historian John Higginson, who brought some memorabilia to the event.
“It really took us back to a time of rationing. All of us who were in the war remember these things – ration books, not having sweets, making a little go a long way.
“It would be nice to have more displays of memorabilia because it takes you back to a time when you have so many memories and it’s nice to talk about them sometimes.”
As well as the regular film screenings, Journeying Together also includes taster sessions.
A fun dancing workshop was held shortly after the screening of the George Formby film and featured much of his music.
Dance routines were based on semaphore using scarves as visual aids and could be adapted to be chair-based for those with limited mobility.
The session revived memories of their own dancing days for many and for one couple it was clear that dance had played a significant part in their lives. They had met on a Morecambe pier where they used to go dancing 57 years ago.
Journeying Together project officer Angela Norris said: “For a brief moment, it almost appeared as if this couple had stepped back into their own time.
“They performed an impromptu waltz oblivious to those around them, the husband tenderly holding his wife and gently reaching down to give her a kiss.
“It was a moment that was moving and humbling to observe.”
The first Journeying Together workshop of 2014 older people the chance to reminisce about their earlier lives.
Telling Stories was led by Steve Fairclough, an experienced script writer and actor from Warton, who used people’s ideas and stories to write a ‘group’ poem, which he then read out to the participants.
More than 20 people attended the workshops and relived their memories of wartime, growing up in Morecambe in the 1960s and their own lives, careers and relationships.
The next event in the Journeying Together Project, funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, will be a screening of the Hollywood classic High Society on Monday, February 24.
To book tickets for any Journeying Together events and to find out what else is in store, contact The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit www.dukes-lancaster.org/journeycafe. Contact Age UK Lancashire on 0300 303 1234 for more information on the project.