There was something magical about the York Minds and Voices get together yesterday. Wendy marvelled at how we have all blossomed over time and she summed up some of its magic in her blog from today.
I am filled with a real sense of wellbeing as I flash back to dancing with Liz as she came in that morning; and to the champagne moment of Rita’s face appearing at the door having been unable to attend for several months. I am still marvelling at the depth of reflection, the campaigning zeal and the work we produced today without losing that sense of celebration every time this group meets. I’d argue in fact that it is precisely because of that sense of celebration in the room that we produced so much together.
It didn’t feel like work. Like Wendy, I too was struck by the maturity of the group and the powerful sense of belonging and the freedom that it brings to its members – Or rather I should refer to the belonging and freedom that everybody engenders within the group. Freedom to be quiet, to talk, to contribute, to be different, to express ourselves in whatever way we wished. There was, as there should be, a real blend of serious discussion, activism, laughter, dance, tea, coffee and a good spread for lunch.
We not only shared and decided on next steps for our Rights work on transport, we also planned a 15-20 minute slot we have been given on the agenda of the upcoming York Dementia Action Alliance (on the not insignificant topic of inequalities of opportunity and its possible causes including poverty, lack of knowledge, and confidence, and the values of others). All before lunch!!
But what really got me thinking was the short session after lunch when we were to continue discussions on the creation together of a course for people newly diagnosed with dementia. This is a course which members of Minds and Voices will be designing, developing and delivering as course tutors.
This was going to be quite hard thing to do or so I thought. I casually asked what sort of message would members like to share to people newly diagnosed – well there followed a barrage of powerfully assertive statements delivered with a real sense of urgency.
‘Age is just a number’ ‘It’s not the end of life’ ‘It’s the start of something’ ‘I’ve had a breath of life’ ‘I’m fully occupied’ ‘I’m never in. I can’t do my housework’
We swiftly moved on to common problems without prompting and there followed a full pros and cons debate around driving by Eddy and Paul. Acclimatising to change and a range of top tips were then suggested.
Liz brought up the issue of other people and the attitudes of other people, “Someone said to me ‘You can’t have dementia because I see you going around town on your own’. People think we’re ga ga”.
As ever the issue of relationships with those nearest us came up and the importance of seeking to equip those newly diagnosed and their supporters with simple strategies to avoid many of the traps that dementia sets.
I was astounded that within about 5 minutes (for that’s all it was) we gathered a comprehensive range of content and identified tutors for various elements of what will be the final programme.
Producing stuff together has become a bit of a ‘thing’ recently. The magic of this ‘co-production’ came not through the waving of a wand but through the investment of two years of the building of confidence and relationships within this peer support setting. This is real co-production not tokenistic involvement. It takes time, building of good relationships, shared experiences, and the subsequent growth in confidence of belonging to a group of peers to produce the magic. Indeed, Wendy, how we have all blossomed.