This is Northern Ireland's first dementia friendly shopping centre

Pictured L-R: Lynn Bulled, Alzheimers Society volunteer; Alderman John Smyth, Deputy Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey; Leona Barr, Centre Manager, The Junction Retail and Leisure Park; Danny Brown, Alzheimers Society service user; and Pamela Frazer, Dementia Friendly Communities Support Manager, Alzheimers Society.
Pictured L-R: Lynn Bulled, Alzheimers Society volunteer; Alderman John Smyth, Deputy Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey; Leona Barr, Centre Manager, The Junction Retail and Leisure Park; Danny Brown, Alzheimers Society service user; and Pamela Frazer, Dementia Friendly Communities Support Manager, Alzheimers Society.

The Junction Retail and Leisure Park is set to become the first dementia friendly shopping centre in Northern Ireland.

The Antrim based shopping destination will work with Alzheimer’s Society Northern Ireland to offer additional support to shoppers who live with the condition.

Staff are currently being offered dementia friendly community workshops to help them spot the signs of an individual living with a diagnosis of dementia and deal with the needs of those affected. Some 85 members of staff have been trained to date, with a view to training all new staff members in the future.

In addition to this, each store has a nominated ‘dementia friend’ to assist anyone who needs additional help whilst shopping. The centre has also worked to improve signage across the site in order to assist with orientation and help guide those with dementia through the centre.

Dementia is an umbrella term for a progressive disease of the brain. It gives rise to a set of symptoms that may include gradual memory loss, difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or communication. Many different illnesses can damage a person’s brain and cause dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common.

Dementia devastates lives. Alzheimer’s Society research shows that 850,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, including more than 20,400 people in Northern Ireland. By 2021, 1 million people will be living with the condition. This will soar to two million by 2051.

Danny Brown, an Alzheimer’s Society service user from Antrim, spoke of how the changes already made to the centre are helping him get through his everyday tasks:

“I recently came to [The Junction] to buy shoes and when in the shop, a member staff came straight up to me and asked if he could help. I had to ask him where I was, and he explained I was in the shoe shop. Between us, working as a team, I got the shoes that I needed. I know if I come back to the store, I’ll not be left standing on my own; it’s very encouraging. It gives me strength to go from day-to-day.

“The more people that are there to help, the easier our lives are. We just need that support, and a little bit of time to express what we are looking for.”

Guidance and advice was also given to the managers of The Junction by Barney Thompson, another Alzheimer’s Society service user, along with his wife Catherine. Barney felt valued to be asked his opinion and saw The Junction’s commitment as a step forward for people living with dementia and was greatly encouraged by this.

Leona Barr, Centre Manager, The Junction Retail and Leisure Park, said:

“Dementia is a growing issue across our community, and we are delighted to be the first shopping centre in Northern Ireland to take on this initiative.

“In developing this new initiative, we have spent time with members of the public that have been diagnosed with dementia to understand exactly how we can make the centre more accessible. We will continue to make further adjustments based on further feedback.

“The Junction is committed to ensuring that we are fully equipped to welcome all shoppers, and we will continue to build upon our services in the coming years.”

Pamela Frazer, Dementia Friendly Communities Support Manager, Alzheimer’s Society, also said:

“We are delighted to be working with The Junction shopping centre as they work towards becoming a dementia Friendly business. Research shows that 83 per cent of people with memory problems have switched their shopping habits to places that are more accessible (Alzheimer’s Society, 2013). Becoming dementia friendly enables businesses to retain existing customers and attract new ones. From increasing signage to staff wearing a Dementia Friends badge, small changes can make a big difference to people living with dementia and their families.

“Our Dementia Friendly Champion, Lynne Bulled has done tremendous work in utilising the skills she has learned from her training and combined it with her passion for making Northern Ireland businesses more dementia friendly. Her work has brought The Junction and Alzheimer’s Society together to create a more positive shopping experience for people with dementia and their families. This will be a shining example to the retail sector in Northern Ireland and we hope others follow suit.”

For further information, visit www.thejunctionshopping.com or follow The Junction on Facebook, Facebook.com/TheJunctionAntrim or follow @JunctionAntrim on Twitter. For any questions about dementia, or the range of services available in Northern Ireland, visit Alzheimers.org.uk.