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Reaching the dementia population in rural areas

Elly Wilson Wickenden explains how Creative Arts East are reaching people with dementia in hard-to-reach areas in East Anglia.
Our Day Out has been running for about two and a half years now. And it originally started as an idea from some specific dementia nurses and a council who wanted to engage people who had been recently diagnosed with dementia who were living in rural communities with positive activities. We were asked to take over the programme and took it in a high quality arts and cultural direction. And we started delivering sessions once a month in three locations in rural Norfolk. Then were able to increase from three locations to six locations. And from once a month to twice a month. And we’ve been working with a range of professional musicians and dancers over the last year and a half.
The Our Day Out programme really was about engaging those hard to reach people. People that don’t access other services. Wouldn’t access our normal rural touring activities. And in particular in this programme, that’s often because of the diagnosis of dementia. So we found when talking to the people that we were engaging with, that some of them after diagnosis had isolated themselves or had become isolated for various reasons. And it was really important for us to make this programme really inclusive, friendly, and open, and remove any barriers that they might have in terms of feeling comfortable and accessing it. You’re trying to reach those hardest to reach, those people that don’t access services.
There is a question about, where can you find them? How can you find them? And that still remains an issue or a challenge for our programme. We’re also working in rurally isolated places so even though we are working in small market towns, our catchment is to all those villages around, as well. And Norfolk, and I’m sure Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, and I’m sure many other rural counties, have transport issues. So we have been working with community transport schemes, which are good in some areas. There’s some really great provision out there, but it’s patchy so it doesn’t necessarily mean that everywhere we’re working has a good community transport scheme that can support our participants.
Our strategy for trying to reach as many people as possible was to locate ourselves in small market town hubs so that we would have the greatest reach, the biggest catchment of older people. And those little market towns often act as a community hub for quite a large rural community or rural area.

Watch as Elly Wilson Wickenden (Deputy Director, Creative Arts East) explains how her organisation, an arts and community development charity in East Anglia, has through one of its programmes been focusing on reaching the hard-to-reach populations of people living with dementia.

You will hear how both social and geographical isolation can be difficult barriers to overcome when trying to reach people living with dementia. Elly also explains some of the strategies that Creative Arts East have employed for widening their reach.

How have you found out about groups and activities for those living with dementia in your area? If you have any recommendations for local groups which you feel others may benefit from knowing about, please provide information about these in the Communal Pinboard step at the end of this week.

CREDITS We would like to thank Creative Arts East for providing supplementary images for this video: Anita Staff Photograph/ Our Day Out.
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