I played Jenga today today for the first time in a very long while. It was part of a very enjoyable morning spent at the Leominster Meeting Centre.
It was a long overdue visit. The concept of a meeting centre – a place where people can adjust to a diagnosis of dementia, receiving support, advice and, most of all, friendship, originated in the Netherlands but more and more are springing up around this country. It’s the fruit of a lottery-funded project being run the University of Worcester’s Association for Dementia Studies.
It was wonderful to spend time in such a supportive, non-judgmental environment. Someone said to me, ahead of my visit, that I would struggle to identify who was living with dementia and who was a carer. She was right but actually that really doesn’t matter. The centre offers equal support to both. The only labels on show are name badges. No-one is defined by an illness or by a role. Staff, volunteers, visitors – everyone mucks in.
When Mum was first diagnosed, more than ten years ago, my sister took her to a day centre. It was Mum’s one and only visit:
“It’s full of old people. I don’t want to go back.”
I can’t help but think that Mum would have loved a day at a Meeting Centre. And she would have willingly joined in with the game of Jenga which proved to be the centrepiece of the morning.
It was full of laughs but also fairly serious. As a visitor, I was keen not to make a fool of myself and I was relieved to have avoided the ignominy of sending the pile crashing to the floor.
Oh, and what has Mike Oldfield to do with this? Well, one of the characters I met today had played on one of the most celebrated albums of the 1970s. Dementia continues to broaden my world.