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Dementia friendly group in Bowthorpe celebrates 

The Oaks Friday Friendship Group celebrated its second birthday at the ecumenical Bowthorpe Church with an open day recently. Kevin Gotts reports.

The group, open to all, supports visitors in a wide range of crafts, games and practical interests, with a special welcome for those with dementia and their carers.

Lois Wiltshire, church member and group leader, explained her involvement: “I have always had a passion for community and following a dream about this church being used for the community. I attended a Fresh Expressions course of championing new ways of being church which seemed to pull it all together. And it shows the love of the Lord with welcoming and accepting all.”

Around 45 people attended the day on Friday May 10 in conjunction with Age UK Norwich and supported by various community organisations and charities, including a visit from MP Clive Lewis.

Lois said: “Everyone is equal here, we are a dementia friendly group and we welcome everyone, all ages, all abilities every Friday throughout the year.  We have a wonderful teams of volunteers.”

Student nurse Vicky volunteers and also helps with design, print and set up the Facebook page: “It’s amazing; I’ve never come across such a nice place to hang out, relax and speak with friends,” she said.

Sylvia, a member of the catering team which also provides lunches, arranges craft activities: “We also put on special events like the Nativity with 28 people taking part, each wearing an outfit made here.  They feel happy, I feel happy.”

Membership and visitors tend to live locally, and it is close to the Bowthorpe Care Village which has been designed to care for people living with dementia and those with various disabilities and needs.”

A common theme is for friendships to grow, supporting and encouraging one another.

Angie attends with and supports her husband: “I have rheumatoid arthritis and we help care for each other.  We look forward to this, meeting with our friends and talking to everybody, it’s so friendly.”

Richard volunteers regularly, plays dominoes and often leads singing: “I help with anything, clearing up. I come here and have a good time.”

Sharon, a professional carer, brings along Phyllis and Brian - two older siblings, and is encouraged by the value of attending: “It is nice to see them interact with others of all ages and backgrounds.  They remember people and faces and are more settled.”

Not only has Lois an aim of Bowthorpe Church and Parish becoming a dementia friendly community, but seeing the group become a template for other communities.

As a member of a wider steering group, the Oaks is being considered as a pilot scheme with a potential to be replicated further afield, so that even more people have access to a group in their communities.

Pictured above is dementia champion Lois Wiltshire, centre, with other guests and some birthday cakes, at Bowthorpe Church.


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