Dementia Friendly Churches & Communities
If you have been reading the newspapers or listening to the news recently it will have been hard to miss the message that we are an aging society. By 2050 it is expected that one in four people will be over 65 years old. For many of us aging will include the reality of dementia, either as a person living with or journeying alongside another with this condition.
There are around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, with rates predicted to rise to around 1 million by 2020. The issue of dementia raises important questions for the church. How do we continue to share a fulfilling and meaningful Christian relationship when our friend no longer remembers our friendship? How can congregations welcome and include members with progressive memory loss who may feel overwhelmed by usual church activities? How can we support those who are isolated as they care for someone with dementia? How might we share the gospel and show the transforming love of Christ with those with dementia who have never known him before? These questions are crucial to the mission and identity of the church. As John McFadden beautifully explains:
“As Christians we have a different story to tell about what gives our lives worth, value and meaning. Personhood is not defined solely by our corporal bodies or our cognitive abilities, but rather by our relationships with others. And we are creatures created in the divine image not because we physically or intellectually resemble the Almighty One, but because God remains in faithful relationship with us in all circumstances and conditions. God’s goodness can be experienced within the reality of cognitive loss.... Some question whether persons with dementia can continue to live their faith if they are no longer able to remember God. They can, because faith is not dependent upon individual memories or cognitive ability. If we should forget God, God will not forget us. And if we forget God, our community of faith can remember us to God and bring God’s presence into our lives through means that do not require us to grasp that presence cognitively"
There are many things that churches can do to support those affected by dementia and we can all learn from one another. On our St Peter’s College website we have compiled various resources to gain an understanding of dementia and how churches may start to consider how they can become more dementia friendly. These resources have been compiled by the South Yorkshire Dementia Faith Network. We hope this will be a valuable resource, giving an overview of what dementia is, how to build dementia friendly churches and support the faith practices for people living with dementia and those journeying with them. To access the information just follow the link below.
If you would like more information about the South Yorkshire Dementia Faith Network, or you would like to join, please contact:
Dr Gemma Graham (firstname.lastname@example.org).