How half term fun can help your relatives living with dementia

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It barely feels like a week ago that we were putting labels in this term’s school uniforms and packing our children’s lunches ready for the new term and already half term is well  underway.

Care UK’s head of dementia services, Maizie Mears-Owen, looks at the exciting opportunities for intergenerational bonding and fun during the half term.
“Sadly, when you talk to older people, whether they have dementia or not, it is not uncommon to hear they often feel they are of less and less relevance to those around them. They feel as if they are the cared for, and not the ones who can contribute to the family experience.
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth – our older generations have a lot to give to the younger generations. Half term gives some interesting opportunities for our youngsters to benefit from their grandparents’ history and for our parents to feel positive, valued and useful.
Museums that have a focus on social history are excellent ways for older people to share their knowledge and experiences with children and a great way for children to learn about the past and their family, as well as seeing their grandparents in a new light.
Agricultural museums and working museums show the types of tools and activities grandparents may have seen their parents using in their working life. The National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield, The Peak District Lead Mining Museum and the industrial museums in Leeds, Bradford and Bristol all give the opportunity for reminiscence and learning for both generations. They also give children a glimpse of just how tough life was for children their age in the 1920s and 1930s.
At places such as Beaulieu and Amberley Working Museum, in West Sussex, there are chances to travel in old vehicles. Transport for London has a completely accessible museum in Covent Garden with transport from across the generations. As well as being able to sit in the original vehicles, there are lots of hands-on interactive exhibits that children will love. The train carriages and buses still have their distinctive smell and lighting that will help to trigger memories and conversations.
Many museums have collections of domestic items: people particularly enjoy seeing the things they had in their homes and it gives them a sense of wellbeing, as well as a chance to share stories from their childhood. Children will be amazed at the idea of wash days that took all day and involved heating a large copper pot, then using a washing dolly and wash board. I love to see how people living with dementia become animated as they recall such memories - and the look of incredulity on the face of young people who are used to throwing everything in a washing machine and tumble drier.
At the Beck Isle Museum in Pickering there are 25 themed rooms including a pharmacy and gentlemen’s outfitters, as well as an impressive collections of photographs of the local people and area over a number of decades. All are things that will spark memories for people.
The newly refurbished Imperial War Museum has a free exhibition on the family during World War II, while at its Manchester home there is a free exhibition on children during World War II, as well as a Horrible Histories “Rotten Rationing” section.
Rationing is a great subject to share. So many older people remember it as it did not come to an end until 1954 and everyone understands the principle. Many museums sell replica ration coupons or have recipe books. Why not get the generations cooking together to recreate a Woolton Pie or other home front classic? For those who have the time and whose parents enjoyed gardening, you, they and the children could try your own Dig for Victory garden or window box. Activity will make your loved one feel useful as well as increasing their sense of wellbeing by being outside.
Remember: just have fun, keep talking and take lots of photographs of your days out to create new family memories for everyone.”

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