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Dementia Friendly Cinema research launches

12th May 2015

Photo: Dan Smith

Tyneside Cinema has launched a Dementia Friendly Cinema research project to test new approaches to make it easier for those who have dementia, their carers, companions and families to enjoy a cinema experience. 

Dementia is a disease which can have a dramatic impact on what cultural activities people feel able to participate in and how they can continue to enjoy these with friends and family.  This project will identify barriers and challenges for people who would like to go to the cinema and seek to address these by creating an environment which is comfortable, supportive and meets their needs, as well as providing an enhanced experience through social activities.

There is a six week consultation underway involving focus groups and a survey to get the views of these people, in particular, to help develop the approach and activities.  People with dementia and their carers and families are being encouraged to complete the survey, which is available to complete online or download here by 6th June. 

Informed by the consultation, from July 2015 to December, Tyneside Cinema will run a series of regular daytime film screenings, which are enhanced for people with dementia and their carers and families to find out what works and inform future developments. 

NewcastleGateshead  is fortunate in having a very supportive environment for this work and a mass of expertise and commitment to creating dementia friendly communities and activities. The Dementia Friendly Cinema project was initiated by the Elders Council of Newcastle who approached Tyneside Cinema about dementia friendly screenings and also provided seed funding to start the project. Since February 2015, the development of the project has been informed by a steering group which has a wealth of experience, including the Elders Council, Tyneside Cinema, Alzheimer’s Society, Newcastle Carers, Dementia Care, Newcastle Quality of Life Partnership and Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing. 

Jonny Tull, Programme Manager and the lead on this research project said,"Tyneside Cinema is really thrilled to be working with such a range of organisations on the development of our programme Dementia-Friendly Cinema.  It’s really opened our eyes into the issues faced those with dementia and it is helping us consider a variety of new perspectives on how our building and its facilities are used.”

There has already been an audit of the building to identify what adjustments may need to be made to make the cinema more accessible and useable for people with dementia and their carers and families. In addition, in order to ensure that the welcome is as friendly and helpful as possible, staff at the cinema will be receiving dementia awareness training, delivered by the Alzheimer’s Society and there will be a Dementia Friendly Champion at the cinema to oversee the ongoing delivery of dementia friendly activities. 

Jac Robson, Services Manager for the Alzheimer’s Society for  Newcastle and North Tyneside and a member of the project steering group said, “We know from research that continuing to be involved in their community means a lot to people living with dementia  and their loved ones which is why the efforts of the Tyneside Cinema to become dementia-friendly is so significant.

"The Tyneside Cinema is one of the real gems of Newcastle city centre that is steeped in history and the fact that the staff want to reach out to people with dementia and turn it into a place where they can feel so safe and secure and so welcome is a real statement of intent. With the right support movie-loving people across the North East who are living with dementia can continue to enjoy the delights of the Tyneside Cinema which is supporting people living with dementia to maintain an active social life.”

Resources for the project have come from Elders Council of Newcastle in the form of pump priming money to start the project, evaluation support from the University of Newcastle, training provision from Alzheimer’s Society and in-kind resources from the steering group members and Tyneside Cinema.  Additional funding has just been secured from Ballinger Trust, which, amongst other things,  will enable the project to engage Northern Stars (a young person’s film production company) to make a documentary about the project, which will share the learning more widely and highlight the challenges for people with dementia and their carers and families, but also what approaches can make a difference to improving the quality of their lives.

NGCV partners already have a wide range of approaches to improving access to cultural activities for people who may have additional needs (some examples are online here) and they also have special projects which engage people with dementia, such as Tyne & Wear Archives & Museum’s reminiscence work and Theatre Royal’s relaxed performances programme, which is working with Silverline Memories to include dementia friendly performances. 

The research findings of Dementia Friendly Cinema will feed directly into the equalities and access work undertaken by the NGCV partnership and inform good practice across the cultural organisations in the city, bringing added value from the initial project.  The networks that have been created as part of this project will also be invaluable in maximising the benefit from the project and helping to make NewcastleGateshead a more dementia friendly community.


People who are interested in the Dementia Friendly Cinema project, can sign up for updates here

Dementia Awareness Week (17th-23rd May) will both raise awareness about the condition and help people understand what they can do to maintain and improve their quality of life.  You can find out more about Dementia and Dementia Awareness Week and how you can support this here: http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/remembertheperson

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