Ipswich Borough Council and University of Suffolk pledge to become dementia friendly

Ipswich borough councillors Roger Fern and Neil Macdonald stand outside Fore Street Swimming Pool wi

Ipswich borough councillors Roger Fern and Neil Macdonald stand outside Fore Street Swimming Pool with the authority's health and wellbeing manager, Chantelle Roberts, before work starts to make the building dementia friendly Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

A campaign to make Ipswich a better place for people living with dementia has taken a leap forward.

Ipswich Borough Council and the University of Suffolk have both pledged to make their organisations dementia friendly.

There are estimated to be 1,700 people living with dementia in Ipswich, and this figure is expected to increase rapidly over the coming years.

Ipswich Borough Council has vowed to make dementia friendly adaptations its buildings and services, simplify its processes, and raise awareness among staff.

The authority has conducted an audit of its commercial properties, including Fore Street Swimming Pool, Gainsborough Sports Centre and the Regent Theatre, to assess what could be done to make these spaces easier to use for those affected by the illness.

Advice is being sought from those living with dementia and their carers to see what changes would be most beneficial for them.

Chantelle Roberts, health and wellbeing manager for the council, said: “While we have used a nationally recommended tool for auditing our buildings, we want to ensure that the voice of those living with dementia is at the heart of any improvements we make.”

Most Read

University of Suffolk’s pledge will involve an institutional commitment to developing a dementia action plan and becoming a member of the Dementia Action Alliance.

The organisation will focus on several key areas that seek to raise awareness, support staff and students and promote excellence in teaching and research.

Paul Driscoll-Evans, dean of health sciences at the Ipswich-based university, said: “Health and social care services are struggling to meet the challenge of unprecedented numbers of older people living with memory loss.

“In recognition of the impact dementia is having on communities across the East of England, the University of Suffolk aims to be a role-model organisation, actively playing a role in ensuring those living with the condition feel understood and valued.”

Ipswich Dementia Action Alliance (IDAA) is leading the campaign to make the entire town dementia friendly.

A key figure in this drive is IDAA chairman and Ipswich borough councillor, Roger Fern.

Mr Fern is also a carer for his wife, Pat, who was diagnosed with dementia eight years ago. The couple, both aged 75, have been married for 52 years.

“There is still a bit of stigma with dementia which sometimes inhibits people going to the doctor and getting a diagnosis,” Mr Fern said. “There is probably twice the number of people living with the condition in Ipswich than the figures suggest.

“As a community we need to be more helpful, encouraging and supportive of people who in every day tasks like going to the shop, going to the bank or going to the post office can quickly get confused and if people are impatient then the confusion simply gets worse and worse.”

Mr Fern said an important message IDAA wanted to get across was: “it’s perfectly possible to live well with dementia”.

Next month, Mr Fern and other members of IDAA are planning to lobby pubs, restaurants and coffee shops in the town to make dementia friendly adjustments.

The pledges have been made in Dementia Action Week (May 21-27).

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter