Kevin O’Donoghue in Wiltshire wants even more people to help transform how we all think, act and talk about dementia.
Kevin O’Donoghue admits to feeling ‘a bit daunted’ before running his first Dementia Friends information session with a classroom full of schoolchildren.
However, ideas and support from other Dementia Friends Champions gave him the edge he needed.
‘One lad said he was going to find a cure!’
‘It was brilliant. The school was covering the brain as part of the curriculum, so we piggybacked onto that. They were all very receptive.
‘Some of the actions agreed at the end of sessions were notable. One lad said he was going to find a cure!
‘They listen, they pay attention. It means something to them – they have grandparents who have dementia.’
Kevin, in Highworth, Wiltshire, became a Dementia Friend in 2017 and trained as a Dementia Friends Champion that summer. Having retired from work, he wanted something constructive and meaningful to do with his days.
‘It was time to pay back and do some volunteering. Dementia seemed a fairly obvious topic to focus on, bearing in mind that it’s a growing issue.’
Although most of Kevin’s information sessions have involved up to 10 people, school visits have boosted the number of Dementia Friends he’s created overall.
In fact, Kevin recently joined the 167 Dementia Friends Champions who have signed up more than 1,000 people to the social action movement.
He credits Susan Lambert, Dementia Friendly Co-ordinator at Swindon Council, with helping to organise so many sessions.
‘Basically, she’s my agent. She gets most of my gigs!’
‘You can see enlightenment dawning and hear the pennies dropping.’
Meeting another Highworth-based champion, Elaine Graham, also had an impact.
‘We’ve done several joint sessions since, which is good. You learn from other people. It’s not often that you get to see another champion doing a session. It’s very useful, because we all do it slightly differently.’
He says the impact of the information sessions on new Dementia Friends is clear to see.
‘You can see enlightenment dawning and hear the pennies dropping, especially on the importance of visiting relatives with dementia.’
There are now over 2.7 million Dementia Friends, but Kevin is determined to do his bit to keep the movement growing.
‘It’s fantastic that so many people have joined, but it’s just a start really.
‘We need to reach a lot more people to reach a tipping point in levels of understanding about dementia and how it affects people.
‘For me, it’s the best thing I’ve done in years.’