More melons please…
It seems pretty trivial, humorous even – forgetting what you have in the fridge and, in my late mum’s case, buying a glut of melons every week (or tinned peaches in the case of the endearing Maud, in Emma Healey’s hugely insightful novel “Elizabeth is Missing”) – not remembering there are plenty more already at home.
Typically, we all have a mental or physical shopping list when we enter a grocery store: Do we need more milk? Have we got something in for supper? Did our partner use the last of the tea bags this morning?
But imagine going into your local store and although you may have been there hundreds of times before, you suddenly realise you don’t know how to navigate it and you can’t remember what you need. You might discover a shopping list in your pocket but don’t understand it, or know how much of an item to buy – or you’re not even sure how you’re going to pay for it.
Not only is this hugely embarrassing for a previously independent person, it’s also isolating, frustrating and sometimes frightening.
The Power of Friendship
Having experienced first-hand with my mum the devastation that one of the main types of dementia – Alzheimer’s Disease, can bring to a person’s life and having tried to understand just some of the challenges in functioning day-to-day and doing seemingly simple tasks like popping out to buy bread and milk, I’m really heartened to hear that some of our major retailers are putting plans in place to be “Dementia Friendly”.
Customer-facing store staff are being given special training to offer guidance, support and above all friendship and encouragement to their regular shoppers with dementia, thereby getting to know them and better understand their needs.
A group of organisations including Sainsbury’s and Home Retail Group are currently developing guidance on how the retail sector can work to become more dementia-friendly.
Meanwhile Co-op Stores in Bradford are already ahead of the game in building dementia-friendly communities.
Cathy Henwood, the local Society’s Dementia-Friendly Communities Co-ordinator, says,
“From the beginning we identified that whatever we were doing, the voices of people living with dementia would be key.”
Cathy made sure that managers from local Co-op stores had a good basic knowledge of dementia, so they could pass information and resources on to their staff. She also walked around stores with members of the group to identify what could help customers affected by dementia. While some things could be addressed by individual stores, many aspects of how they are laid out and fitted require decisions at a national level.
“The bigger thing was awareness raising, and all the staff were up for that.”
Do something new today…
The theme for this year’s DAW is #DoSomethingNew and if you’re a marketer or a retailer, you can’t afford to ignore a growing proportion of the population now living with dementia in the UK.
Many people with dementia still live independent lives and browse, shop and consume just like everyone else – but they sometimes need a little additional support in doing so. Simple packaging cues, easy to navigate store signage and most importantly specially trained and empathetic store staff, can go a long way to help alleviate some of the challenges. It’s hard enough living with dementia – why make it harder?
So let’s work together to understand more about this cruel and currently incurable disease and during this Dementia Awareness Week, don’t forget to find a few moments to gain a better degree of understanding and become a little more “Dementia Friendly” yourself.