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March 30, 2021

Opening up Community Cafes

The lockdowns have been hard for all of us, but for people who are living with dementia it has been devastating. The pressure on carers has also been enormous, and organisations like Carers Leeds have been busy doing great work supporting people across the city.

Before lockdown we had a thriving network of Memory Cafés and community activities which provided social opportunities for people living with dementia. The closure of these community-based activities has left carers without breaks and the isolation has led to an increase in the progression of symptoms for people who have a diagnosis.

Many of these groups were delivered by volunteers from the community on shoestring budgets. Read our blog about the Coffee Pot Memory Café by guest blogger and volunteer Trevor, who tells the story of their Memory Cafe and the effects of Covid.

Some support day services have been able to offer opportunities; Liz Menecer from Young Dementia Leeds, shares some comments about the effects of the lockdown isolation from their service users:

“Before returning one said that he had “felt terrible” and felt that his memory was “going away”, he could not concentrate and had no motivation. Another said that he had stayed in bed rather than get up at his usual 6 am.”

They have been able to restart some of the groups, which has made a massive difference:

“Since returning to the Hub, one said that he “had something to look forward to”, one said it had “given me some purpose”, another that they felt “good, seeing my mates again’.”

Some people will feel anxious about returning to face-to-face activities, which Liz asked about:

“One said that they “felt nervous at first as I hadn’t been out during lockdown”. Another said that they “felt nervous travelling to the centre in a taxi, but better than travelling on a bus” ”.

Liz also talks about how important it is to reassure people that everything will be Covid-safe:

“When they got to the Hub, the familiarity of the space, use of PPE, abundance of sanitiser, cleanliness of building and spaces arranged to support social distancing made them feel at ease. We talked about vaccination – they were not concerned about the staff but felt safer when they had the vaccine.”

Dementia Friendly Leeds (DFL) is a campaign to raise awareness of dementia and make services more accessible and is coordinated by the Friendly Communities project at Leeds Older People’s Forum. The DFL Social Opportunities Working Group was formed at the end of last year to bring key partners together to increase social opportunities for people living with dementia.

One of the ways we are doing this is with a new online listing of support and social opportunities for people who are living with dementia in Leeds – Dementia Friendly Leeds What’s On Listing. Anyone who is providing social opportunities (online, face to face, over the phone) can add their activities by completing this online form, the listing can be seen on the Dementia Friendly Leeds webpage.

We are also organising an online information sharing session for anyone thinking about (re)starting Covid-safe face-to-face activities for people who are living with dementia. The event is on Thursday 22nd April at 11.00am. You can register and find out more through eventbrite.

The offer for help will be available throughout the year for any groups who want to restart, just get in touch with the Friendly Communities team.

100% Digital also offers help with online activities and can provide specific information about how to include people who are living with dementia.

We have lots of free resources to help any groups and organisations who would like to become Dementia Friendly, to ensure your services are accessible and welcoming for people who are living with dementia. You can also join many other organisations in Leeds and sign up as an Age and Dementia Friendly organisation.

Sadly some of the community groups may not be able to restart and this is why we are also putting out this call to action – could you start a new group in your community?

Sarah Prescott –
Jude Woods –
Communities Officers, Time to Shine