As the national evaluation of Dementia Friendly Communities (DEMCOM) Project comes to an end, Dr Elspeth Mathie (DEMCOM study member and co-lead Inclusive Involvement in Research (Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) East of England) visited Tokyo on an ESRC UK-Japan Connections Project (led by Professor Elizabeth Pike, Head of Sport, Health and Exercise, University of Hertfordshire).
England and Japan are amongst the few countries who have Dementia Friendly Communities as part of their National Policy. As part of the trip we were taken out to Machida City to visit a day service centre located in the residential community. Ten people living with dementia come each day. They arrived, taking off their shoes, storing their bags and then making themselves a cup of coffee. We were offered a coffee by one of the men attending, who introduced himself in English and told us he had lived abroad as part of this work. Music from the 70s was playing and people sat at the table and we all introduced ourselves. People were given the choice on what they wanted for lunch; karaoke lunch, café or have lunch in the building. The facilitator recorded the choices on a white board. There was also a choice of activities for the morning and we joined a group of people going to the local Honda garage where they washed cars and earn't money. It was accompanied by a lot of laughter and clearly something people enjoyed doing. Other jobs on offer were packing up T shirts for Run Tomorrow and one man sat collating receipts. As a comparison to the local dementia café in the UK where I volunteer once a week, I was stuck by the choices offered (lunch and activities) and the opportunity to participate in ‘work’, earn money and go out into the community.
Tomoki Kaneko facilitated our visit and is part of the Dementia Friendly Japan Initiative. He gave a presentation where he highlighted the lack of evaluation of DFCs and the difficulty of knowing whether dementia communities have made a difference. This is something we have been tackling as part of our National Evaluation – DEMCOM study, that reviewed provision across the country and studied in depth, people living in six Dementia Friendly Communities in the UK. We hope to take forward some of this work with Japanese colleagues.