This week is Dementia Action Week #DAW2021. The campaign, led by the Alzheimer’s Society asks supporters to take action to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.
This week also marks the reopening of the Cathedral doors to the visiting public.
During recent months, our Virger Team have all been trained in Mental Health First Aid by Custos, Daren Gibb. This has enabled them to develop their own knowledge of mental health conditions which they may face when meeting members of the public. Some of the Entrance Desk team have also undertaken Dementia Awareness training during recent months to ensure they can appropriately support anyone living with dementia, who may come into the Cathedral.
I’ve recently come across a charity called Re-engage. They ‘exist to provide social connections for older people at a time in their lives when their social circles are diminishing.’ During lockdown, they have had to cancel all of their usual social gatherings and in turn they have created a new telephone be-friending service for older people called ‘call companions’. This has meant that older people who live alone or in sheltered housing, feeling lonely or isolated have had regular phone calls during lockdown.
According to their website: ‘Over the last 20 years, the number of people over 75 who live alone has gone up to over 2 million. All too often, loneliness is the reality for older people and nearly half of older people say the TV is their main source of company. Social isolation and loneliness are more than an emotional experience – they have huge mental and physical health implications. Older people living alone are significantly more likely to experience health problems, visit their GP or attend A&E. As the ageing population continues to grow, so does the epidemic of loneliness among older people. We’re the only charity solely committed to tackling this problem by helping older people to re-engage with their communities through regular social contact, giving them a lifeline of friendship and, vitally, something to look forward to.’
We know that many of our visitors, no matter what their age, who come into the Cathedral during the first days of reopening will have experienced some lonely times during the past 14 months. We hope that the welcome they receive when they walk into our Cathedral, from both our staff and volunteer, will help them to feel less isolated, less anxious and comfortable in a building they are probably delighted to be in again.