Newcastle Libraries has launched a new program tailored to assist people living with dementia, their families and carers, designed to foster conversation and connection.
The Memory Room uses images and items from the Local History collection to evoke memories and encourage participants to share stories and laughter.
Material and resources are now available to view online and download for free at home, while one-hour, face-to-face sessions facilitated by certified local art therapist, Alice Ropata, will be offered fortnightly from today.
Memory Room participants Sarah Greentree-Beddow and her mother Sandra Greentree, program facilitator Alice Ropata and Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes recall the 2007 Pasha Bulker Storm.
According to a 2019 Dementia Australia survey of more than 5,700 participants, including people living with dementia, their families, carers, health and aged care professionals, 96% of respondents believe people do not know what to say to their friend or relative who lives with dementia.
A further 74% of people living with dementia say others have not kept in touch as much as they used to.
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said Newcastle Libraries provided inclusive spaces for the young and old to gather and share stories.
“Fostering connection among the older members of our community is vitally important, and our Libraries are a safe, welcoming zone to facilitate that,” Cr Nelmes said.
“City of Newcastle is committed to creating dementia-friendly programs and library spaces. Our library staff have received training through Dementia Australia’s Dementia Friends program, so they feel encouraged to help someone living with dementia remain connected and engaged with their local library and community.”
Manager Libraries and Learning Suzie Gately said one of the Memory Room program’s aims was to provide meaningful opportunities for connection while reducing social isolation and breaking down the stigma associated with dementia.
“Dementia affects close to half a million Australians, a number which is set to double in the next 25 years,” Ms Gately said.
“A single photograph can elicit powerful memories that allow us to open up with loved ones and share stories of our past. The Memory Room encourages discussion in a friendly and supportive environment, helping to strengthen and maintain a sense of connection with others.”
Participants and their carers can book Memory Room sessions online via the Newcastle Libraries website. Other library resources can be accessed through the website to borrow, as well as Dementia Australia-led webinars on a range of topics.