A group of volunteers in Swinton came together on Friday to stitch and stuff a handful of Mr Alzheimer’s 

The Mr Alzheimer’s project is a product of AgeUK Salford Inspire and aims to raise awareness of Alzheimers and Dementia in children.

Mascots made by volunteers at the Stitchers and Stuffers events are sent into local schools with a backpack and learning resources.

Thought up by Inspire member, Joy Watson, the Mr Alzheimer’s mascot enables children to become more familiar with the condition by asking questions.

Joy, who lives with dementia herself, told me of how the idea for the project came to mind:

“It was born out of my concern for my two granddaughters. They were having problems with Nanny keep saying and doing silly things, and they weren’t able to voice their concerns. So I thought, if they had something that was neutral, like a toy, they could talk to the toy about how Nanny sometimes shouts, or swears.”

“So that’s how it started. I made the toy and they took him home and they took him to bed and they just chatted to him. And I thought well if it’s benefitting my two girls, maybe it could benefit other children.”

“It just works out so well because they can relate to the toy and they can talk about dementia. A lot of them didn’t know anything about dementia, but they knew that a family member was acting strange and that made them frightened in some instances.”

Mr Alzheimer has been rolled out to primary schools across Salford and the feedback has been very positive so far. Amanda Barrell, who supports Joy at Salford Inspire, described how the schools have benefited from the project:

“We’ve had a lot of feedback, lots of feedback from the schools. Some of the schools have come back and said, ‘Joe Bloggs has told us about their Grandmother. We didn’t even know they were living with a family member living with dementia.’ So it’s actually raised awareness within the school as well, of how they can support the child’s well being as well.”

A study in 2015 found that there are around 2,000 people living in Salford with dementia. While the aim of the project is to raise awareness of the condition, the act of getting involved in arts and crafts has also helped the volunteers cope with living with dementia, as Joy explained:

“We try to get across that you don’t have to be good at sewing, there’s a little job for everyone. Even if you just want to sit and come and chat, people from the Poppy Day Centre, they come and just enjoy sitting and looking at the colours of the materials, fiddling with the materials. So we try and open it up to anyone, we try to get across that you don’t have to be a sewer, you can stuff the guy if you want!”

Amanda also added how she’s seen the events benefit people living with dementia:

“I think it increases well being. I think it affects their cognitive stimulation and things like that, reduces depression, reduces social isolation, and it’s giving somebody a sense of purpose, that they’re actually taking part in raising awareness and getting the message out that you actually can live well with dementia. It’s such an important cause.”

Mr Alzheimer’s is prevalent across Salford right now, but Joy has bigger plans for her project:

“My dream would be that it gets rolled out nationwide. I’ve had a conversation with the health secretary and I’m looking to talk to the education secretary with a view to maybe have it on the curriculum. It’s a tool to run forward with helping the next generation, to have some dialogue about dementia and then to see how they can help.”

For more information on the Mr Alzheimer’s project, check the AgeUK Salford website, and keep up to date with their socials to find out how to get involved in future Stitchers and Stuffers events.

Image Credit: Joshua Boyles

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