Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Drawing Life

Drawing Life

Helping people live with dementia

The Hastings and St Leonards Dementia Action Alliance (HSLDAA) is a small charity that is seeking to make Hastings and St Leonards more dementia friendly. Raising awareness and understanding of dementia can help those living with the condition, along with their carers, to confidently live their daily lives. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths was interested to find out more.

Dementia is something that most people are aware of, either through parents, family friends or, with an ageing population, ourselves as we look into the future. Run by volunteers the HSLDAA, formed in 2015, are currently seeking more people to join that team to help with organising and setting up events, providing help, information and guidance, as well as fundraising and promoting dementia awareness.

One key way the HSLDAA seeks to boost understanding and awareness is encouraging people, businesses and organisations to become Dementia Friends by taking a short online course, or attending a virtual or face to face training session.

There are two organisations the charity supports that are actively helping people with memory loss – Drawing Life and Music for Memory – championing both the individuals and their carers. Meetings were obviously difficult/impossible during Lockdown, specifically visiting care homes. However, not to be defeated and  wanting to keep a routine and contact with their followers, both organisations went online providing sketch books and song books respectively to enable participants with their carers to continue with their art and singing activities.

The intention of both artists’ and singing groups is to provide an uplift to the day through drawing and singing. With Music for Memory, visitors can join in the singing as partaking has an uplifing effect, can activate memory and help concentration.

Music and songs can be remembered after speech has seemingly been lost.

Music for Memory

Music for Memory

Songs from youth

The ages span 60 to 90, consequently songs are chosen 50 years back to the times of their youth. It is not all Pack up your Troubles and We’ll Meet Again – although a few of these do have their place, the song sheets include Oh what a Beautiful Morning, Singing in the Rain, When I’m 64, We’re All Going on a Summer Holiday. If they can add hand movements to the songs so much the better. As Anne Smith, Trustee of Music for Memory and carer to her 95-year-old mother, says “Learning something new helps with creativity, confidence and self esteem.”

The organisation provides a safe place so participants can be left without their carers if they want to have a coffee, a chat which gives them a little respite from the day-to-day, hour-to-hour caring. In fact everyone is welcome; anyone who is suffering from memory loss, the elderly and the lonely who would like some social interaction. There is an hour for singing and an hour or so either side for coffee, fun, cake and conversation.

In the UK, one person every three minutes develops dementia, and by 2025 there will be one million people affected, with this figure doubling in just 26 years. Drawing Life is working with academics in art and science to devise ways to contribute to research in this vital field.

Drawing Life collage

Drawing Life collage

Drawing Life ideally works in the community but at present, with Covid, their meetings in cafes have been somewhat disrupted. Classes are on again, but it’s a patchy schedule because some care homes are still in lockdown and they don’t contribute to every Know Dementia session, although they hope normal service will be resumed soon. Instead of face-to-face classes during lockdown, they produced two free sketchbooks so drawing could continue at home with carers or in care homes.

Variety of methods

When fully functioning they have a variety of methods, including drawing to music, drawing life models in costumes, sketching memories and telling life stories.  Working at a gentle pace with an ‘anything goes’ approach, self-expression is encouraged, which reduces anxiety. Art gives carers new subjects to talk about with those who may have lost the art of conversation. The  workshops are social occasions for everyone to enjoy and draw – or not – although  everyone is encouraged to have a go.

East Sussex seems well served by organisations looking after those who need assistance and help. Know Dementia is a registered charity set up in 2013  – and part funded by the NHS – to provide advice and support to the whole person not just their medical condition, as well as to family members and carers.  Much of the support is provided through their Memory Moments Cafes,  Sporting Moments,   Singing and Musical Moments.

Memory Moments cafes take place informally in cafés and include tea, coffee and cake, a little fun and laughter with games, talks, music, dance, drum circles, animals, music and movement, Tai Chi and professional Artists – often provided by Drawing Life. They meet in various cafes between 9.30am and 12pm around East Sussex. Locally: Wednesday, The Cedar Rooms, Hastings Centre, The Ridge, Hastings TN34 2SA; Thursdays, BLODS Hall, Upper Sea Road, Bexhill-On-Sea, TN40 1RL, as well as in cafes in Eastbourne and Heathfield. You can book your place by ringing 01273 494300 and look at the website for other locations around the area.

Memory Moments also extend to Sporting Moments and Green and Woodland Moments to be found on the Know Dementia website.

HSLDAA cupcake dementia awareness event

HSLDAA cupcake dementia awareness event

All of HSLDAA’s activities are carried out using limited resources from donations, fundraising, grants and sponsors. Any income generated through their activities is used to put on events for people living with dementia, as well as their carers, families and friends.

If you would like to know more about becoming a volunteer with HSLDAA please email, or visit their Facebook page. If you want to find out about taking part in one of their Dementia Friends sessions then please visit their website or email as above.


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Posted 15:25 Tuesday, Feb 22, 2022 In: Charities

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