How we responded to the pandemic

As the pandemic hit Age Exchange took the decision to close services on 17th March 2020 which led to the immediate end of all face to face and group contact for carers and people living with a dementia diagnosis. Within 5 hours the team had developed a Virtual Day Care service which provided meaningful connection to people living with dementia, those that care for them, and older people experiencing loneliness and/or isolation. The service was up and running by 19th March and was developed to foster companionship and support, whilst enabling creativity. We are very proud of how the team responded, focusing on service users whilst trying to deal with their own changing circumstances.

We aimed to give people opportunities for stimulating activities to improve mood and engagement and to provide both carers and the person living with dementia with emotional support. The Virtual Day Care Service comprised of:

  • Reminiscence Arts activity boxes and music and movement DVDs which were delivered to the homes of service users with dementia and their carers on a monthly basis. The boxes and DVD’s aim to provide people with stimulating and creative activity.
  • Telephone support calls including information and signposting alongside a light touch mental health assessment.
  • Reminiscence arts zoom groups to replace in person services.
  • In January 2021 we introduced a volunteer telephone befriending service.
  • Additionally, a bi-monthly newsletter is produced to keep service users in touch with each other.

In 2020-21 Age Exchange:

  • Provided over 109,000 minutes of support calls to our Caring Together and Day Care services users throughout the course of the pandemic to over 150 people living with dementia and their carers.
  • Delivered 1,476 activity boxes and singing and movement DVD’s.
  • 1747 hours of support through zoom groups and face to face groups in the periods they were able to meet.

Virtual Art Gallery 

Through the Virtual Day Care Service lots of outstanding art was created at home. Thanks to the generosity of the Arts Council and National Lottery Community Fund we have been able to launch our Age Exchange Gallery. The gallery displays the wonderful art works the many participants of our services have created since March 2020 when the pandemic hit.  

The art works in our gallery have been created by older service users living with dementia and their carers, as well as service users living with young onset dementia and their carers. We have been inspired by the beautiful and moving art works they have created during such a challenging time for each of them. We have called our exhibition "Lockdown." The different galleries reflect the different activities and interventions we created to support people at home during the pandemic, including for a brief period in response to the reintroduction of face-to-face sessions back at Age Exchange. 

Artwork by Vesna

The people we support have told us how important the service is to them

I genuinely look forward to coming out and meeting everybody. It was the highlight of my week before the pandemic. 

It helps a lot.  Since my husband died last year, I felt I got the help I needed if I felt all alone. 

They talk me through things when things are bad. I have dark moods, they help me. 

The thought, imagination and content put into the boxes, the quizzes unlocked so many memories. Then followed Aga’s exercise DVD.  Aga appeared with her cheery greeting and it was ready, set go!