November 9, 2015, by Michael Jennings

Dementia – what does it mean to you?

Written by Justine Schneider, Professor of Mental Health and Social Care at The University of Nottingham, reflecting on the recent Dementia: testing knowledge event at the University of Cambridge and the play Inside Out of Mind.

I am nearly 58 and recently went online to calculate my life expectancy. The first website put my age at death as 98, the second 106. By living beyond 90 I will have a one in three chance of developing dementia. If you are younger than me, or if you are a vegetarian, non-smoker who exercises regularly, you should consider yourself a likely candidate too. This means that you and I both have a strong interest in how society adapts to the challenge of dementia. It’s about us, as well as about our parents and our grandparents. Dementia is personal.

We created a play, Inside Out of Mind, written by Tanya Myers, and based on research in dementia care wards. It portrayed the care assistants and nurses who work, day in and day out, with the most difficult to reach older people affected by dementia. Several actors played two roles, carer and patient, which powerfully conveyed the message that the people who are carers are the same people who will be cared-for.

IOOM - Cast

Image: Alan Fletcher

I am fascinated by the way that dementia is changing society. It is forcing us to reappraise old age, and to reconsider what we want for ourselves. This is why as a social researcher I have gravitated towards the study of dementia care. “That must be tough” some people say, or “how depressing”. That’s a matter of opinion. But I think that there are clearly some potential benefits from confronting dementia. These come down to four ways in which dementia is driving forward the frontiers of knowledge: fascinating science, thriving technology, great art and a deeper understanding of what makes us human. What better place than a university to explore all four frontiers?

Have your questions about dementia answered by visiting the IDEA website (Improving Dementia Education and Awareness), a free online virtual learning centre dedicated to improving the care and quality of life of people with dementia. IDEA are also launching Dementia Day-To-Day, a new initiative and blogging platform, at a special event on Wednesday 18 November. Find out more and RSVP.

Posted in research