September 21st will be World Alzheimer’s Day and a special photography project has been commissioned to mark the event. A selection of people who have been diagnosed with dementia have posed to recreate old photos of themselves as part of the project.
Organised by the Alzheimer’s Society, the exercise has been designed to encourage people to take part in its Memory Walks, but it also serves another purpose. Looking at old photographs is one of the most effective ways of triggering memories in people with dementia.
Recreating the photos has given the individuals an opportunity to scrutinise the pictures and talk about the situation when they were taken. The resulting images are a charming record of each person’s personality and a flicker of their former selves despite the disease.
Keith Oliver, who lives in Canterbury and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s nearly ten years ago, was one of those who took part in the project. He is pictured in a smart shirt, tie and jumper combination, wielding a paintbrush and smiling in a similar fashion to the snapshot taken when he was a child.
He said: “It’s been a while since I painted, even though it was my favourite thing to do as a young boy, but me and my grandson sometimes paint toy soldiers together. Recreating this photo has been a wonderful way of returning, if only for a little while, to my own childhood.”
It’s been a positive experience for Christine Seddon and her partner Victor, who recreated a picture of the pair taken together in the 1970s. Victor was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s earlier this year, but the recreated photo transported the couple back to the working men’s club in Tottenham where they originally met.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a difficult time for those suffering with dementia, particularly as social contact has needed to be limited. This has led to a perceptible increase in symptoms for many people, with relatives left worried about their loved ones.
As coronavirus cases start to rise again, many care homes that had started to relax the rules around visiting are putting restrictions back in place. While this is a blow in terms of social interaction, it is seen as a necessary step to keep coronavirus out of care homes.
The Alzheimer’s Society has also suffered as a result of the pandemic, especially as many fundraising opportunities have been lost. It’s predicting that by the end of this year, as much as half of its annual income could have vanished.
As a result, it is asking people to take part in a Memory Walk this World Alzheimer’s Day to help raise vital funds. These can be undertaken in households or socially distanced groups of up to six that fit in with the current coronavirus guidelines. Interested parties can sign up on the Memory Walk website.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, making up between 50 and 75 per cent of diagnosed cases. 209,600 people in the UK will develop dementia this year alone, which equates to one every three minutes.