In February’s meet-up we listened to two wonderful speakers about the way their organisations can help to enhance an individuals lives.
First up were The Wayback, who deal in memories! Good memories can take us back to a place and time and enable us to feel as if we are there-they are powerful.
According to Wayback, shared memories are not only powerful, but are a vital means of enabling the 850,000 people currently living with dementia in the UK, to have a more fulfilling life. “The best way forward is to go way back” says Andy, one of the founding members of the project.
The Wayback project idea was sparked when Dan Cole became aware of ‘reminiscence therapy’ and decided that he had nothing to lose by trying this with his Father, who was living with dementia.
Camden was the place Dan’s Father had grown up in, and as Dan walked him around the place, the memories came flooding back. They were fleeting, but they were there. For moments, Dan could see the Father he once knew.
When Dan’s Father sadly passed away, Dan was determined to make the lives of people living with dementia and their carers a little better. Joining forces with Andy Garnett, he set out to use their combined experience as highly respected and experienced film industry creatives, to make this an innovative reality.
Others then came onboard- Kevin Thomas (an Emmy award winning producer), and highly experienced producers Philippa Thomas and Trent Simpson. This knowledgeable group set about creating a film which replicated the Queen’s coronation. Many actors and extras were drafted in to play the parts of people in a typical 1953 home and outside at the street party. The producers spared no details-even the crisp packets were of the era. 360 degree VR technology was then used to enable the user to “live the experience”(Andy).
The VR device is a cardboard headset which is specifically chosen to be easy to use for the user, and will be renewed annually if needed. Once on, the film is then played via a phone slotted into the headset. The family member or carer sitting with the user can use an app on their phone so that they are watching the same film as the user-this means they are able to point out things to the user, and really get involved in their memory.
So far, the VR/film combination seems to have incredible benefits; “There is a stronger emotional reaction than with 2D objects…they may forget what they’ve seen 10 minutes after seeing it, but the feeling of well-being stays with them much longer,” says Neil Aitken, General Manager.
Neil describes the project as ” a passion project, pure and simple”, and that passion has earned them the Essex Challenge Dementia Prize run by Essex County Council, which has enabled them to fund more films for the wayback project and to make it a sustainable business.
Future films to be made include England’s World Cup victory and the Apollo landings, and there are many other shared memories to access.
The Wayback will be formally launching their company on 24th March with the help of Sir Geoff Hurst MBE in Colchester football stadium.
Everyone in the room was ‘wowed’ by this project-one of those ideas that is obvious when you think about it-but that needed people with the passion, experience and skill to bring it to fruition.
Our second speaker, Peter Livingstone from Remap, told us they are also a passionate bunch with the focus of making people’s lives easier and better.
In 1964, the founder, Pat Johnson saw that his sister could have a much better level of independence by the use of a ramp and a hoist. Pat set about making a ramp out of off-cuts of wood from other projects, and fitting a hoist for her.
This got him thinking-his sister wasn’t the only one that would benefit from adjustments to enable them to have more independence.
From this spark, Remap has progressed to be an independent charity which completes 3,400 projects a year.The charity consists of many volunteers, usually with a background in high profile engineering, such as working for Marconi or Ford, but anyone that likes working with their hands is encouraged to apply to be a volunteer. Volunteers are sent to meet the client, discuss their needs with them and then go back to their garden sheds or garages to work out how to make a device that suits this need. The device is assessed by the client, and if it isn’t working, it will be adjusted until it does!
Peter says “our creativity and inventiveness remain at the heart of what we do”, and you get a sense that finding solutions to problems brings them a sense of joy too!
Remap are generally tasked by Occupational Therapists or Physiotherapists to help support their clients, but anyone can ask for help from them. The main criteria is that the need cannot be met elsewhere. In an age where it is harder to come by aids for making tasks easier, Remap should be seen as a valued and treasured local service.
If you would like to learn more about how they have helped their clients, or to ask for help yourself, take a look at their website or facebook pages:
Many thanks to our photographer on the evening, Alex Ward. Website: Alexander Ward