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New initiative to support locals living with dementia


Newcastle Libraries has launched a new initiative to support Novocastrians living with dementia in the hope of breaking down the stigma attached to the condition.

The Memory Room uses images and items from the Local History Library to evoke memories in sufferers, and encourage connection through stories and laughter.

The online resource is free to access and easy to navigate. Users can simply click on the photograph they would like to view and it will provide information about the picture, as well as questions to encourage reflective thought and conversation.

Certified art therapist Alice Ropata will also be offering fortnightly face-to-face sessions to help those impacted by dementia.

The Memory Room workshops are free, and will give the participant access to the Local History collection.

In addition, participants will have the opportunity to view current exhibitions at the Lovett Gallery. These sessions will offer a chance to connect in-person and journey back in time through storytelling.

According to a 2019 Dementia Australia survey of more than 5,700 participants, 96% didn’t know what to say to friends or relatives suffering from the condition.

A further 74% of those living with dementia said they hadn’t kept in touch as much as they used to.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes hopes the inclusive space will change that statistic by encouraging conversation.

“City of Newcastle is committed to creating dementia-friendly programs and library spaces,” she said.

“Our library staff have received training through Dementia Australia’s Dementia Friends program, so they feel encouraged to help someone living with dementia remain connected and engaged with their local library and community.”

Manager Libraries and Learning Suzie Gately agreed the program has the potential to facilitate conversations among friends and family.

“A single photograph can elicit powerful memories that allow us to open up with loved ones and share stories of our past,” she said.

“The Memory Room encourages discussion in a friendly and supportive environment, helping to strengthen and maintain a sense of connection with others.”

Interested participants can purchase their free tickets to The Memory Room workshops here.

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