Washington primary school is one of the first in the North East to launch a dementia café

Ron and Pat Forsyth with pupils who took part in the dementia'caf� launch.
Ron and Pat Forsyth with pupils who took part in the dementia'caf� launch.

A primary school has become one of the first in the North East to launch a dementia café, where children can chat and play games with older people living with the conmdition.

Holley Park Academy in Washington, which has 284 pupils aged between four and 11, hosted their inaugural café in the school hall last week.

Ken and Pat Bevis with Holley Park pupil Joel Emmet, 10.

Ken and Pat Bevis with Holley Park pupil Joel Emmet, 10.

It was such a success that the school plans to hold the event every six weeks, inviting members of the community to join them over a cuppa.

Pupils played dominoes with their guests and used reminiscence boxes, containing memory prompts such as old kitchen utensils, to engage the visitors in conversation over tea and cakes.

The café was inspired by Rowena Carr, a Dementia Support Worker with Alzheimer’s Society, whose two sons attend the school.

Deputy head teacher Susan Kitchen said the school was keen to establish intergenerational links in the community and teach pupils about dementia.

We want every young person to understand what it’s like to live with dementia

Susan Kitchen, deputy head teacher

“A third of young people know someone living with dementia and with over two million people developing dementia in the next 10 years, most people will know someone affected by the condition in their lifetime,” she said.

“We want every young person to understand what it’s like to live with dementia so over the last academic year, the whole of the school, pupils and staff have been trained as Dementia Friends, as well as fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society through coffee mornings, cake sales, choir performances and a non-uniform day.”

Ken Beavis, 64, attended the event with wife Pat, 63, who was diagnosed with early onset dementia three years ago.

He said: “I think this is a lovely idea. Pat has enjoyed coming here and being around the children.

“Now she has difficulty maintaining conversations so anything like this that jogs her memory is really helpful.”

Ron Forsyth, 77, of Ouston, attended with his wife, also called Pat, who was diagnosed with dementia three years ago.

He said: “I think the idea of hosting a regular dementia cafe at a school is a great idea. Pat has really enjoyed it.”