Grace in front of a Christmas tree holding her certificate

A primary school pupil from Dunblane has become Alzheimer Scotland’s 90,000th Dementia Friend, after taking part in her local Dementia Friends community project at school and by signing up to the award-winning Dementia Friends Scotland initiative at home.

The national Dementia Friends Scotland programme, aims to transform the way the nation acts, thinks and talks about the condition, as well as challenging the stigma of dementia which still exists for thousands of families living with the illness. Introduced in 2014, the initiative has gone from strength to strength engaging with individuals, communities and businesses across the nation.

Grace McKenzie (age 7) who attends Newton Primary School and whose favourite subjects are arts and maths, took part in the local Dementia Friendly Dunblane project at school and by knitting forget-me-knot flowers to help raise money for the local Memory Café. Grace has also been involved with people living with dementia since birth at the care home where her Mum works and where Grace is a regular visitor.

Grace McKenzie, said: “I really wanted to become a Dementia Friend after I saw Mummy get her badge. I’ve always wanted to help out at my local Memory Café but I am at school when it’s on. When I heard they were coming to my school I asked Mrs Kane if I could go and help and she said yes.

“I really enjoyed visiting the Memory Café and enjoy colouring in with everyone. I think it is a good thing because people with dementia can get together, play games and have fun.

“Anyone can help people with dementia and it doesn’t take a lot to do. Dementia Friends helps you start to think about how someone with dementia feels. When I grow up, I’d love to be an artist or be in a job where I can help people.”

Linda Kane, Head Teacher from Newton Primary School, said: “We are really keen to engage with our local community and continue to strengthen partnerships. We have been involved with the Dementia Friendly Dunblane project for two years now, by involving pupils in awareness-raising and community-based activities including assemblies dedicated to the work of Dementia Friends, working with our senior pupils and staff to become Dementia Friends, by organising for pupils to attend the local Memory Café as well as hosting the café in our school.

“Grace was really keen to get involved in the project having being involved with the elderly through mum’s work. She’s a lovely girl and has been a little entrepreneur too by knitting forget-me-knot flowers which is the Dementia Friendly Dunblane’s logo to help raise money. We are all thrilled that Grace is to be celebrated as being the 90,000 Dementia Friends by Alzheimer Scotland.”

Anne McWhinnie, Dementia Friends Scotland Project Manager, said: “We are thrilled that Grace is our 90,000th Dementia Friend in Scotland and thank her for all her enthusiasm and hard work. By engaging with schools’ our mission is to help raise awareness of the condition and reduce the stigma of dementia across communities.

“It’s fantastic when young people become involved in the project, because they are the next generation and a key part in ensuring we all have a dementia-friendly future. We are thrilled that over 90,000 people across Scotland have now become Dementia Friends and have committed to making the small but vital changes that will help people with dementia to feel understood and valued in our communities.”

The Dementia Friends Scotland initiative aims to give people more insight into the condition and the real challenges people living with dementia face. It demonstrates
the small changes that can often make a big difference to people living with dementia such as adapting how you speak, giving clear information, removing some of the challenges that can cause confusion and changing behaviour – such as simply being patient in a queue. Find out about dementia and what’s it’s like to live with the condition by becoming a Dementia Friend.