Our Essence service base, the Sir Thomas Allen Centre at Doxford Park has received a gold award by an international centre of excellence for its design.

The service was visited by an auditor from the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) and a detailed report was shared giving feedback on the Sir Thomas Allen Centre in terms of its design and level of dementia friendliness, before the gold status was confirmed.

DSDC is an international centre of knowledge and expertise based at the Sterling University, dedicated to improving the lives of people with dementia. They draw on research and practice, from across the world, to provide a comprehensive, up-to-date resource on all aspects of dementia including dementia friendly buildings.

The Essence building was designed from the outset to be dementia friendly, created to practically support those with the condition and their carer’s. Age UK Sunderland’s Essence building is the only voluntary sector facility in the nation to have achieved the award and one of only two places in Sunderland to achieve this very high standard.

Above: Age UK Sunderland Director Alan Patchett with Essence Manager Anthony Gonzalez

The Essence Service is operated by Age UK Sunderland and the Sunderland Carer’s Centre, which is free to access and offers advice and support to people who have recently had a dementia diagnosis, and those who care for them. It provides valuable support at what can often be a very difficult time in people’s lives.

The Essence Service has workers on hand to offer assistance to allay the fears and concerns that can come with a dementia diagnosis; the award recognises the service’s work to create an accessible, welcoming space, where people in the city can go to enjoy sessions that are specifically designed for people in the early stages of dementia, and receive advice in a number of areas.

Alan Patchett, director at Age UK Sunderland, said that the award was testament to the determination and design effort from the very start by Age UK Sunderland to create a dementia friendly environment that would be a beacon for the city.

He said: “A dementia diagnosis can be heart breaking, and you can be left imagining the worst.

“The Essence Service is the first port of call for people in the city who have had a diagnosis, and their families and friends who may be left with lots of questions about what they can do to help.

“Our aim, since day one, has been to create a service that really does enrich and transform the lives of those living with dementia in the city from a space that is absolutely fit for purpose, so to have our centre awarded a gold status from an internationally respected body is just fantastic.”

Mr Patchett added: “The Essence Service gives vital support to people with a dementia diagnosis and their carers, at what can be a very anxious time in their journey, and we are so proud to have our facilities recognised and to know that, as a result, we are helping improve the lives of many people across the city.

“We’d welcome any organisation to come to the Sir Thomas Allen at Centre in Doxford Park to see for themselves how we have created a space that is designed for people with dementia, and to share the knowledge and best-practice we have achieved.”


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