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She Means Business – Silverline Memories

As of next year, 850,000 people in the UK will be sufferers of dementia, an illness that effects brain function and memory. Silverline Memories is dedicated to raising the awareness of dementia into communities and running activities for people with dementia and their carers to enjoy and benefit their illness.

This week I chat to the founder, Sandra Hastings about the set up of Silverline Memories this year and what the future holds for her new business.

Where did the idea of setting up Silverlines Memories come from?
Two years ago I started a Masters degree to become a social worker but realised after a year that statutory social work was not going to be for me and I withdrew from the course. During the course I had spent six months on placement at a Day Centre for people living with Dementia. I really enjoyed the contact with the users and began to think about ways in which I could develop the range of activities available for older people living in the community with dementia. And so Silverline was born!

Silverline Memories launched this year with the help of a Big Lottery Award. How did you apply for this grant and how has it helped the business?
This was my first funding application and it was a really daunting process. There is so much information required both to evidence the need for the project you are planning but also to clearly define the outcomes you want and how you will know if you have been successful. I wasn’t too hopeful when I submitted the application but being told I was successful was an amazing feeling; it showed me that I really did have the right ideas for the organisation and gave me the confidence to push forward.

What kind of events does Silverline Memories offer?
All of our activities are designed to help people rediscover hobbies and memories. Our workshops include Guided Reminiscence, Life Story work, Rummage boxes, Music Memories, Movies & Popcorn sessions, Arts & Crafts…. and all activities are designed to be shared in group settings to they are very social and lively occasions. As well as the workshops we have a Reminiscence Room which was an unused lounge which is now decorated and furnished as a 1970’s living room! We have recently formed a Community Choir and we are also working The Cecily Douglas Memory Garden & Allotment which will enable older people and those living with Dementia to rediscover their love of gardening and the growing of fruit and vegetables. We have a lot going on but everyone involves gets so much out of seeing the enjoyment we bring to our members it makes the hard work so worthwhile.

You work with a lot of clients who suffer from dementia. How does Silverline help them?
When someone is living with Dementia the recent past can be hard to recall while memories from long ago remain vivid and intact.   This can make the world feel unfamiliar and confusing. We help people to recall those memories from the past and doing this brings a sense of familiarity and reassurance, as well as being social and hugely enjoyable. Many people living with dementia experience loneliness and social isolation, with 77% reporting they have lost friends since being given their diagnosis. The positive feelings our participants feel stay with them even when they cannot recall the activity itself.

What is the most rewarding thing about your job?
Watching people with Dementia and their Carers share an activity that they may not have been able to do together for a long time, and seeing the joy that rediscovering a joint interests or hobby brings to them. It allows people to be themselves and not just be identified by their diagnosis or role as Carer.

You are a Dementia Friend Champion! What does that entail?
As a Dementia Friend Champion I deliver Dementia Awareness Information Sessions. It is part of the Government’s initiative to creating Dementia Friendly communities. Each information session lasts around an hour and provides information on what it is like to live with Dementia and what we can all do to make our communities a little more friendly for those who are.

On top of Silverline, you are also a Virgin Start Up Business Mentor. What does that involve?
When someone applies to Virgin Money for a Business Start-up Loan, they are matched with a mentor who guides them through the first year or so of business to help them avoid the pitfalls that so many of us have fallen into ourselves! It is really rewarding to watch someone with little experience grow in confidence and become successful entrepreneurs. When you are starting out it is really easy to be intimated by those we see as “experts” – I like to remind them there is no difference between them and us – we are all on the same journey just some are a little further down the road, and some, like Richard Branson, are a long long way down the road, but it’s still the same road. And if he can do it, so can they!

You are a woman of many talents as you are also a published author! Tell us a bit about your writing?
I have always blogged and have always felt I had something to say! Whenever something inspires me I write about it. I have always felt passionately that older people are disadvantaged in society and set about researching the ways in which this disadvantage is caused. I then linked with Steve Rogowski to develop the article further to show the implications of this for Social Work practice. This was published and we are now looking into developing this into a book proposal.

You sound like a very busy lady! What do you do in your spare time?
What spare time I have tends to be spent supporting my children in their sporting activities! I read a lot and when my partner’s shifts allow it, we head to the Cinema or out for a meal with friends, or we stick on our boots and waterproofs and head to the woods with the dog.

Where do you see yourself, career wise in 5 years time?
I have so many plans for Silverline! At the moment for every project we take on there are three that I have to put on hold due to time constraints. In five years time would like to be in a position where I can say yes to every opportunity that comes our way and to know that there is no-one living with dementia that we cannot reach in some way or another. That would make me very happy!

To find out more head to www.silverlinememories.com

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