Cookery group helps city become dementia-friendly

Cook and eat group provides fun and comfort for people living with dementia

 

by Caroline Whiteman, Community Cookery worker

Over 1 million people in the UK will be living with dementia by 2025, according to statistics from The Alzheimer's Society.

These numbers may sound shocking but in Brighton and Hove there is a growing movement who believe it is possible to live well with dementia.

In early 2016 the Food Partnership was awarded funding by the Clinical Commissioning Group to deliver gardening and cookery programmes for residents of the city living with mild to moderate dementia. Our work had been chosen to contribute to a citywide approach to making Brighton & Hove a more dementia-friendly place to live.

We ran our first cookery course in the autumn. A central Brighton location was selected with a large bright communal area for preparing and eating the food the group had made. The course ran for five weeks and each session was three hours, which enabled the participants and their carers to relax into the experience of making the meal and being together. The group's ethos was as much about socialising and enjoying one another's company as it was about learning jazzy new cookery techniques.

Some of the participants came with a carer and others attended independently depending on their own circumstances. As word got out about how delicious the lunches were, we'd have the odd carer drop in to join us for the eating. It always made for a very lively and sociable meal.

Never too old to try something new

Preparing a range of dishes from week to week meant everyone was able to try food they may not have had before, even tasting ingredients they claimed not to like. One participant, John said he disliked nearly all vegetables on the first day and by the end he had eaten with relish every recipe (mostly vegetarian) and was delighted to report he'd enjoyed them all.

Some of the group said that they'd really liked both the cooking and eating in addition to spending time with the group and having a laugh and a joke. Another participant told us ‘My favourite thing about coming here is meeting people, getting to speak to people. It’s lovely, I like meeting people, different people. I’d never speak to any of these people, but once you’ve met them you’ll get speaking to them, I really enjoy it.’

We cooked around five dishes each week, including soups, risotto, goujons, vegetable crumble, beetroot and chocolate cake (a particular hit) and a chicken and root vegetable bake, with the organic chicken generously donated by Barfields Butchers of Fiveways.  The food was eaten as a shared lunch with any leftovers packed up and sent home with the participants and carers.

Personally the course was a joy to deliver, meeting new people and hearing their memories of cooking and eating as the stories tumbled out, seeing participants' confidence grow from week to week and rediscovering their cookery skills from a life before dementia. The course was made a success in large part due to committed and kind volunteers who chatted and supported participants and carers through the cooking processes as well as helping to create a warm and welcoming space for people to come to. It was a pleasure working alongside them.

Sign up for our next dementia-friendly groups

We are thrilled to have another two of these courses scheduled in Feb/March and March/April 2017 (one in central Brighton and one Bevendean). So if you or you know anyone with mild to moderate dementia who might enjoy these free, relaxed and friendly cookery sessions, please contact us.

In addition to our cookery, we also offer a dementia-friendly gardening group which runs in central Brighton on Tuesday mornings.  If you’re interested please get in touch with Sarah on  or call us on 01273 431 700 to discuss.