Hall of Memories appeal

The coronavirus pandemic highlighted the importance of services for people living with dementia and their carers who experienced 9 trillion hours of isolation and loneliness throughout the pandemic.

What has emerged from the pandemic is the importance of community led initiatives, like Age Exchange that can continue to provide voluntary support, when other sources are unavailable. The number of people with dementia is set to rise rapidly to over 1 million by 2025 and 2 million by 2051 and Age Exchange are already experiencing higher numbers of referrals than ever before.

Many of us have enjoyed being able to engage once again with the world as it opens back up, meet with friends for coffee, attend live events or simply enjoy shopping. For carers of people living with dementia and their loved ones, they now need to help them back into a bustling world and back into a different routine after months of isolation and loneliness due to them often being placed in a clinically vulnerable group. Loved one's diagnosis’ progressed at alarming rates because of this and carers access to respite services from local councils have been closed, meaning that carers were left without any breaks for the first 6 months of the pandemic (Carers UK, 2021).

For those who have experienced loss over the last 18 months, we recognise that the pandemic has led to many not having the chance to say a proper farewell, a slower grieving process and feelings of stolen time. We know that we are heading toward a particularly lonely and isolating time of year and we endeavour to extend our support to all who need it.

Roger, who has been attending our groups for 2 years, has chosen to share his story of how his wife's diagnosis has affected him and how Age Exchange has helped him through this difficult time:

“Elizabeth was formally diagnosed with Alzheimer's in January 2018 at the age of 67, having only retired 2 ½ years before from practice as a doctor. Back in 2018 she was still capable of going swimming and we could go for walks in the woods. (She is unable to do these activities now which makes what we get from Age Exchange the more vital.) She stopped reading – this previously a large part of her life. We were well supported by friends and relatives but by phone and email rather than face to face. It was vital to keep both our minds stimulated with various activities. However, the lack of face-to-face socialisation was isolating.  Stupidly I had at first been reluctant to join groups for people with dementia rather than the average population. We were both sad and stressed. 24 hours a day my mind was focussed on trying to find activities that would stimulate us both, and ease Elizabeth’s justifiable depression - and I felt a huge responsibility for getting it right.

It was not until early 2019 that we joined the Tuesday group at Age Exchange in Blackheath Village. The most vital thing was the genuine welcome, warmth, affection, humour, liveliness., sense of camaraderie from fellow attenders, volunteers and Age Exchange staff. It was companionable, family like, and that included eating lunch together.  This hugely lifted our mood. An extra stimulation came from singers and instrumentalists who came to perform. And Age Exchange also organised trips for us to Greenwich Cinema, all providing extra stimulation and joy.

Aga livens us up with seated exercises to music, testing our muscles and our brains.  Practical Art has never been an area at which I had ever shone but it was good to learn new techniques - like marbling - which we then also did at home. Elizabeth had been more able but her loss of fine motor control meant it was harder for her to manipulate paint brushes and pencils, but she could still get joy from some simple work and planning what we were doing.

After the pandemic struck the feelings of isolation were hugely raised but Age Exchange were magnificent ringing to check how we were, sending DVDs of Aga's exercises and Mel's singing, and laying on zoom sessions. These provided vital sessions to structure the week.

Elizabeth’s capacity to function has deteriorated progressively. She does not say much and cannot always get her limbs to do what she wants. However, she still gets joy out of the Age Exchange sessions - I think mostly for the social interaction and humour she sees, whether on zoom or face to face. I certainly get a tremendous amount from the sessions. Again, experiencing the camaraderie and laughs provides a lift. Having the two slots on a Tuesday and Friday, now out in the community, provides something to look forward to in the weekly calendar. And I also enjoy an extra singing session with Mel on a Wednesday, with which Elizabeth sometimes joins, albeit this is her day with her carer.

I cannot express how grateful I am to Age Exchange!”

This year we would like to remember all of our friends, past and present, by starting a “Hall of Memories“ in our Community Hub

4” x 2” Plaques can be purchased in memory of loved ones in return for a suggested donation of £20 and can be personalised on the order form.

Download an order form
Make a donation online - your plaque can be personalised in the comments

Order forms will also be available in the café so that anyone who wishes to add their loved one to our Hall of Memories can do so. These plaques will remain the property of the person who donated and will be placed on the wall on the left as you enter the building. You will be able to visit your plaque whenever the Community hub is open. Volunteers will be on hand to help you find your plaque and offer their support.

We believe that this hall of memories and its plaques will not only remind us of our most cherished memories of loved ones, but also to show people like Roger that they are not alone

How your donation can help; 

  • £400   Funds a whole day of Day Care for up to 14 people with dementia
  • £100   Funds a one-to-one support session for someone with dementia
  • £50     Pays for an afternoon of targeted dementia activities
  • £20     Pays for an activity box for one couple

Should you require any assistance in making a donation or have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We understand that recent times have been particularly difficult for our participants, supporters, volunteers and local community. Should you require support we highly recommend contacting Cruse Bereavement Care on 0808 808 1677 or visit www.cruse.org.uk

Alternatively, please contact Age Exchange for further signposting.

Kindly sponsored by