Treasured memories of our nearest and dearest boosts our sense of connection and belonging. But keeping connected with others can get harder as you get older, and when disability and dementia are additional factors in your life, those ties and memories can get lost.
Not so at Livability Brookside, our residential service for disabled adults, where a special anniversary prompted staff and the people who live there to start to gather their stories and memories in a celebration of community life.
When Margaret celebrated a remarkable 50 years as a resident at Brookside in North London, the event inspired service manager Diane Cannas to think about community and shared memories. The whole Brookside community took part in the 50th anniversary celebrations, with an afternoon of games with prizes, followed by a grand buffet supper and karaoke. Diane presented Margaret with a photo frame from the community, showcasing moments in Margaret’s long history of being part of the Livability family.
Margaret was thrilled with the celebration party: ‘I think the chef must have had a busy day because there was a lovely buffet spread put out. I’m normally quite regular with an 8.30pm bedtime, but we were celebrating with karaoke that day, so I stayed up late. I suppose once every 50 years won’t do me any harm!’
Aged 26, Margaret came to live on an estate run by Livability’s predecessor John Grooms, sharing a house with 15 other disabled women. When the estate was redeveloped, Margaret moved into her own flat, along with 20 others at the new Brookside service.
The day ‘prompted all sorts of memories for Margaret, and it got me thinking,’ says service manager Diane Cannas. ‘June, a contemporary of Margaret’s, is now 89 and has recently been diagnosed with dementia. Making a Brookside memory book means we can always look at those photos and remember, “that was me, that was you, that’s me doing pottery etc”. We can all share each others’ stories, as a community along with newer residents who wouldn’t know what’s gone on in the past.’
Margaret’s decades as part of the Brookside community have resulted in deep friendships and some wonderful memories. ‘June, Sue, Joyce and Audrey are all still here from those early days,’ she says. Margaret’s family emigrated in the 1960s, and although family have visited, the Brookside community has been central to her life. June has no remaining family, and Diane hopes the memory book will be a reminder of happy days, both for June and for her Brookside friends who are supporting June as she lives with dementia.