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robbie gardnerAll cards on the table, I'm 17 years old and before Henry Simmons asked me to do this article I only knew the very basics of dementia. It began when I went into Glasgow to meet with Kirsty Yanik, who gave me a summary of all the good work Alzheimer Scotland do. Kirsty informed me about the ‘Green Hands Together’ project which takes place in my local area. It is a very worthwhile project which brings together young children and those living with dementia to build a sensory garden.

Later I was invited to a meeting with Kevin Black, who works in the Bridgeton Resource Centre. He gave me a rundown of his duties and explained what the centre is used for. Sometimes people stop by just to ask one question whereas others, both people with dementia and family members, use it for more long-term support. Kevin also gave me more information about the work the charity does in the local community. Alzheimer Scotland run memory groups which are tailored to the needs of the community. In our area they mainly focus on football, but in other places they may have groups that reminisce about rugby, for example. It is all very area dependant.

Kevin also told me about a very inspirational man, Henry Rankin, who has shown that life doesn’t end with a dementia diagnosis. This is the message that Alzheimer Scotland is trying to promote. Encouraging those with dementia to continue on with their lives because, as daunting as a diagnosis is, life carries on for them and their loved ones.

Overall, this taught me that dementia awareness in schools isn’t what it should be. I’ve been in high school for six years now, but not once have I had an assembly or even a guidance lesson on dementia. There is plenty on heart disease, which of course is still a big issue, but surely more time can be spent on a disease which affects 90,000 people in Scotland alone. We don’t fully know all of the causes of dementia, which makes it all that more scary that schools don’t discuss it with students. Maybe after I’ve left school more dementia awareness assemblies will occur or it will be discussed in guidance classes but at this current moment in time it is heavily underrepresented.

Alzheimer Scotland, through projects like ‘Green Hands Together’, aims to tackle the lack of dementia awareness in schools. This for me is increasingly important, particularly as it is young kids they are working with. By learning about dementia at a young age, there is a better chance of them retaining this knowledge and some may end up educating their parents a little bit. This project is a step in the right direction and I can only hope more like it appear in the future. Personally, I would like to see more projects aimed at raising awareness amongst high school students as well.

green hands together

This article is part of the latest edition of our Dementia in Scotland magazine which is sent out free to our members three times a year. Find out more about our magazine and membership.