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Older people and primary school pupils compare childhoods for a new book to mark ‘Dementia Action Week’

A local care home and a primary school have launched a new book as part of a project to mark Dementia Action Week.

Residents from Blair House worked with Year Six pupils from West Winds Primary School to create a ‘reminiscence’ book, ‘Your Story, My Story’. Over a number of visits to Blair House, pupils interviewed residents to learn about what residents’ lives were once like. This also helped pupils to understand how things have changed in County Down over the generations. In the book, a pupil, Ronnie, reflected on how people now spend their leisure time differently. Ronnie said he regularly plays a computer game. He learnt and wrote about how a care home resident, Doris, spent her childhood with skipping ropes and swings.

  • Residents from Blair House worked with pupils from West Winds Primary School
  • The book project was used to help older people recall the past
  • A resident Annie spoke of how she lived in a house with an outside toilet while another spoke of not having a TV
  • ‘Everyone likes to tell their story and feel valued’

Mrs Kerry Seeds, Class P6 teacher, said: “Our links between West Winds Primary School and Blair House have been invaluable in educating our children both for the older generation and the living history these special friends can share. Writing this book is only a small seed which will grow as the children share their reflections with their peers, family and the wider community.”

The book includes details of how Annie lived in a house with an outside toilet.  There was no fitted bath and they would place a tin bath in front of the fire. Another resident recalled how big shopping centres did not exist, and people would go to different shops to buy different items, like visiting the bakers to buy bread. The project was funded by Linking Generations (Northern Ireland), which is part of the Beth Johnson Foundation which speaks up for the rights of elderly people. Linking Generations specialises in the “promotion of intergenerational practice”. The project also received support from the Public Health Agency.

Dementia Action Week is organised by the Alzheimer’s Society (20-26 May).

Blair House is located in Newtownards, County Down. The care home supports older people, including those with a diagnosis of dementia. The care home is managed by Priory Adult Care, a division within the renowned Priory Group, the mental healthcare specialists.

Joanne McKenzie, Activities Coordinator at Blair House, said: ”Everyone is so proud of this book and we are delighted that stories and memories will be used as a reminiscence and social history tool, both in the home and the school. Everyone likes to tell their story and to feel valued and heard. Most of all it was fun. I want to give a special mention to Mrs Kerry Seeds for all her hard work in putting the book together.”

Jacqueline Bowen, Registered Manager at Blair House, said: “The whole project was a big success. It was great to collaborate with West Winds Primary School and I am delighted that pupils benefited so much from it. I want to give a massive thanks to Linking Generations and the Public Health Agency for supporting the project.”

Sharon Butler, Regional Director for Northern Ireland at Priory Adult Care, said: “It is great to see that Blair House have been involved in a project which was so beneficial to residents and the pupils they worked with at the school. I want to use this chance to thank Joanne, Jacqueline, West Winds Primary School, Linking Generations and the Public Health Agency for all of their support. I am also proud of how Blair House residents were so enthusiastic about the project.”