We're excited to announce that we're one of nine teams through to the finals of Challenge Dementia. This nationwide competition—part of the Essex Challenge Prize—aims to stimulate innovative solutions to difficult social problems. The successful team will receive £100,000 worth of funding to continue to develop their chosen idea. The overall winner will be announced on 28th November 2018.
This year, the judges are looking for a new product or service to support people with dementia. The idea must help them remain connected to the people and places around them.
Our idea involves using the arts as an accessible way for people with dementia to express themselves. Participating in the arts can offer many positive benefits. It can increase personal fulfilment and enjoyment, as well as general health and wellbeing.
Participants will join a creative community of students, academics and artists. We will provide people with the opportunity to engage in meaningful activity. This will empower people with dementia to be creative. It will also help them maintain a strong sense of self, and stay socially active for longer.
Creativity in the curriculum
Our project will be inter-generational in the truest sense. It will involve current health and social care students working with people of all ages.
By participating, students at the University of Essex will gain a more complete understanding of dementia. This will help future generations of health care workers become better informed.
Working alongside people with dementia, students will have the opportunity to act as co-creators of knowledge. They will learn to value their own experiences, as well as those of others living with dementia. This will be a collaborative effort. It will involve Higher Education Institutions, local health and social care organisations, and the voluntary sector.
A unique fusion of education and the arts
Using a co-design approach, we plan to develop a series of arts-based projects. Ideas under discussion include a creative writing initiative, a street photography project, and another based on life stories.
The common thread running through these three project ideas is the power of storytelling. A compelling narrative is a good way to communicate the complex nature of a condition like dementia. Sharing the lived experience of dementia also brings home the emotional toll the disease places on carers.
We will use existing and emerging technologies to craft and record people's digital stories. These deeply personal narratives will provide powerful moments of learning, reflection and insight. We hope that this unique fusion of education and the arts will help raise awareness of dementia.
Future developments may include writing and producing a play based on dementia. A script would be co-produced by students and people living with dementia. The play would then be performed in local primary and secondary schools. If we did this, we would also design a range of learning resources targeted at children and young adults. This would increase awareness of dementia and how to avoid the condition as you grow older.
Strengthening connections and changing attitudes
We want to challenge some of the myths people have about dementia. We hope that our project work will reduce the pressure on local NHS health and social care services. We also want to strengthen connections between the University and its local communities. Ultimately, we want to change societal attitudes towards dementia.