All 800 college students to become Dementia Friends

Rachel Johnstone from the Sid Valley Memory Cafe is pictured with some of the year seven students fr

Rachel Johnstone from the Sid Valley Memory Cafe is pictured with some of the year seven students from Sidmouth College this week. Year seven students at the college have been presented with badges as they are now dementia friendly. Ref shs 3038-41-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth College has launched a long-term plan to train all 800 of its pupils as ‘Dementia Friends’.

The Sid Valley Memory Café is working in partnership with the school to ask every student to pledge to help vulnerable, elderly residents in the community.

The school was one of the first in the country to sign up to the initiative - to help create a dementia-friendly generation - in January 2014.

Teacher Lisa Whitworth said that the long-term goal would include training a group of sixth form students to become dementia champions, who can deliver sessions to the rest of the school.

‘Dementia Friends’ champion and memory café chairman Rachel Johnstone trained 120 pupils in year seven last Tuesday.

Ms Johnstone said: “I was very surprised by how aware they were and how much empathy that they showed to people with dementia. A lot of them were practical with their ideas that could be implemented to help those with dementia.

“It was really encouraging and I am confident for them to be going out in the community and becoming dementia friends.”

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Each student was presented with a ‘forget me not badge’ for completing the training.

The scheme is part of a character education grant, which was given to the college by the Department for Education earlier this year. The grant focuses on the pupils improving in the four key areas of resilience, leadership, community and curiosity.

The school has organised events to raise money for the memory café and its Admiral Nurse Campaign.

Mrs Whitworth said: “Youngsters really struggle with thinking what it is like to be old. So this started as a small way to teach them about what dementia is. It has been interesting to read the pledges and they are spot on from ‘I will not judge’ and ‘I will spend time with older members of my family’ to making sure to help people cross the road if they look confused.

“It is what we want to see - young people doing things in the community.”