2.3 Million Under 18s Know Someone With Dementia But Lack Understanding

Show of support from today’s youth signals dawn of the first dementia friendly generation

Alzheimer’s Society has today (Thursday 26 February) launched a new campaign to create a dementia friendly generation on the back of new survey results showing that:

• Nearly a third of young people know someone living with dementia

• Two thirds of young people (62%) would like to help someone with dementia, but a lack of understanding could be holding them back

• 55 per cent of 8 to 17 year olds believe that if people knew more about dementia, life would be better for those with the condition

With over two million people expected to develop dementia in the next ten years, it is likely the majority of today’s under-18s will experience the condition in their lifetime. The poll of 8 to 17 year olds reveals that around a third (31%) of young people would feel uncomfortable talking to someone with dementia. However, the majority (65%) believe that people with the condition should be supported and included in everyday life. More than half (55%) believe that if people understood more about the condition, life would improve for those affected.

Alzheimer’s Society and Public Health England are calling for young people, parents, teachers and youth leaders to become a Dementia Friend, to help reduce the stigma that results in many with people with dementia experiencing loneliness and social exclusion. A Dementia Friend is someone who has gained a basic understanding about what it is like to have dementia and the small ways they can support someone living with the condition.

Aimed specifically at a younger generation, Alzheimer’s Society has launched a new section on its website aimed at teachers, youth group leaders, young people and parents. The site hosts new teachers’ resources for Key Stage 3, including lesson plans to build an understanding of how dementia affects people, class activities, videos, and fundraising ideas to support the work of the charity. Dementia Friends session can be tailored for children as young as six years old.

Schools that have pioneered the initiative are experiencing many positive impacts, including: improving Ofsted results; supporting themes in PSHE lessons; encouraging younger people to get involved in their local community and becoming more engaged citizens; and encouraging intergenerational relationships. Learning more about dementia also helps those affected by the condition, either through parents, grandparents or other family members.

The campaign is being backed by Richard McCourt, one half of children’s TV comedy duo Dick and Dom. Richard, who is already a Dementia Friend, visited Newent Community School and Sixth Form Centre in Gloucestershire to talk to students about his experience of Dementia and also took part in a Dementia Friends session for Year 7 (11 – 12 year old) pupils. At the session, Richard said:

‘My mum had dementia, but before she was diagnosed, I had very little understanding about the condition. By becoming a Dementia Friend now, young people are more likely to recognise dementia in family members and friends and to support them and seek help when they develop the symptoms.

‘I meet young people every day through my work and have seen them achieve some amazing things, but it was particularly moving to see these pupils engaged in a subject close to my heart in the Dementia Friends session.’

Di Harrill, Head of PHSE at Newent Community School and Sixth Form Centre, said:

‘We have been teaching children at our school about dementia for the last two and a half years and I’m always so pleased to see how engaged they are in the issues around the condition. With as many as a third of younger people knowing someone with the condition, it is vital this generation learns more about it.

Teaching young people about dementia not only develops their understanding, but it helps to create a younger generation who are tolerant of differences, show empathy, are accepting and show compassion.’

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive, Alzheimer’s Society said:

‘Young people hold the key to what our society will look like in the future and we want it to be a dementia friendly one. The young people who learn more about dementia today are our future customer service managers, bus drivers, policemen, MPs and HR Directors who will have more patience with someone who seems confused, or can influence policies to better support people with dementia and carers.  Alzheimer’s Society is urging all young people to become Dementia Friends and help beat the stigma that exists in our society today.’