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Jo blogs... 12 January 2015

12 Jan 2015

According to the Alzheimer's Society there will be 850,000 people in the UK this year who have dementia: a figure that will rise to more than one million during the next decade. Dementia can be a devastating condition that is much more than "memory loss" - it can include mood changes, problems with reasoning, or problem solving and communication issues. The impact on wider family and friends can be equally as challenging both in terms of the changes their loved one is experiencing and the impact on their relationships.

Given the ageing population, it is absolutely right that the government is promoting the need for the creation of dementia friendly communities and challenging us as individuals to become dementia friends, and the Northern Housing Consortium will be taking up this challenge. I know many of you are doing fantastic work to support those with dementia and their families and have visited some great schemes and seen some of the brilliant services and communities you are providing.

The NHC is keen to ensure we are doing all we can - not only to support your work, but also to challenge ourselves how we can do more, or better. That's why I'm delighted to announce a new project we're initiating, working in partnership with the Design School at the University of Northumbria. Many of you may remember we worked with the Design School back in 2011 on a project called "Designed for Life", where we asked the design students to come up with new approaches for aids and adaptations and they absolutely blew us away with their ideas. We thought they may design better looking grab rails, but we were stunned to see much more innovative proposals shaped by an understanding of the issues in question but sculpted by a designer's brain. We're teaming up again for "Designed for Life: Living Well with Dementia", and this time we're asking the design students to design a product, service, or place that will support those living with dementia. We found working with the students last time that they approached problems from such a different perspective and we really can't wait to see what they are going to come up with over the next few months.

We've pulled together a great Expert Reference Group who will work with the students later this month to deepen their understanding of the issues around dementia. Thank you to everyone who is on this group, including the Alzheimer's Society, the NHS regional dementia strategy lead, Sue Lewis from Together Housing, Chris Lamb from Helena, Vicky Bannister from Wigan and Leigh Housing, and Denise Gillie from Peter Fletcher Associates.

After their briefing from the Expert Reference Group, the students will design their product, place, or service and these will then be judged by a Judging Panel which includes Dame Esther Rantzen.

You can keep up to date with the project on our website, and we'll also be providing regular updates on Twitter at @NHConsortium. I'm genuinely excited to be working with the University again on this creative and innovative project and really hope you will be too.

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