Waltham Forest Housing Association (WFHA) is a small local provider of, predominantly supported and sheltered housing, in London Borough of Waltham Forest. With a large percentage of our tenants over the age of 60, we have been involved in the research work on Small Providers involvement with Dementia with Orbit Charitable Trust in 2013/14. As an organisation we have been doing some adhoc work with our tenants who are living with dementia, however, we feel there is more we could be doing.
Following the successful launch of the Waltham Forest Dementia Action Alliance Group in October 2014, we now have 41 Alliance Members and have established one of the largest groups in London.
Internally we were very keen to be recognised as a Dementia Friendly Organisation, so we appointed an Operational and a Strategic Dementia Champion and trained all staff to be Dementia Friends. This is an activity group that is tailored to the needs of tenants who are living with Dementia as well as being suitable for all tenants with or without dementia. This monthly group takes place at schemes across the borough and provides a safe environment for tenants to socialise and take part in activities including, pampering, music, quizzes and reminiscence sessions. The group is designed to raise awareness of dementia, to break down the stigma attached to the disease, educate tenants without dementia to understand the needs of their neighbours and reduce social isolation.
We felt that as well as looking at how we support our tenants and raise awareness, we should also consider the environment in which they live. When planning our cyclical programme of works for 2014/15, we decided to look at two of our sheltered schemes to provide a pilot communal dementia friendly redecoration project that could eventually be carried out across all of our schemes, not just sheltered. Our aim was to ensure that tenants living with dementia were able to live for as long as possible in their own home, and to make accessing facilities as easy as possible.
As a local DAA (Dementia Action Alliance) group, we are working collectively to make London Borough of Waltham Forest a Dementia Friendly Community. We are concentrating on two areas initially; Housing and Arts and Leisure. Leyton Orient FC kindly have dedicated a match to raise awareness in the last two seasons, as well as providing community dementia friendly activities and other arts centres such as, William Morris Gallery and Vestry House are active participants. As a Housing Provider, I felt that a good place to start was to share our experiences with other housing providers who work locally. So on 20th April 2016, the Waltham Forest Dementia Action Alliance Group hosted a morning workshop on how Housing can integrate dementia design into new and existing buildings.
The morning started with a tour of a new scheme in Chingford that has recently opened and has a number of dementia friendly design features. This was followed by a brief overview of the work of the London Dementia Action Alliance Group and the aim to make London a Dementia Friendly Capital city, and housing plays a very important role in achieving this.
Housing Managers and officers were joined by support and asset management staff to hear our local Senior Occupational Therapist in Housing, talk about design in new buildings. She explained about inclusive design; wayfinding; communal areas; accessibility; lighting, furnishings as well as the importance of training for staff. Some of these features were also included in my presentation, which explained how you can incorporate dementia design within existing cyclical programmes, as well as improvement and void programmes, as part of existing budgets as explained above. Not all work has to be carried out in one go. For example, I explained how we at WFHA wanted to include an upgrade of the lighting in communal areas as well as the cyclical decs and replacement furnishings. However, to include lighting was too expensive so we have programmed that for another year. Meanwhile, tenants can enjoy their new dementia friendly decs, signs and soft furnishings.
The half day session was a great success and we hope that a lot of what was discussed on the day finds its way into other schemes across the borough.
As an organisation, we continue our dementia friendly theme in all that we do and as a local DAA group, we will make Waltham Forest a dementia friendly borough!
Waltham Forest Housing Association
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 As at 8th June 16