We all know the statistics. Dementia is on the rise, with the number of diagnosed cases creeping up by the year. It’s not a condition that is going to go away, which makes it all the more critical that we prepare now for the future, looking at the facilities that we will need as a society tomorrow, next year, and in decades to come.

Sunderland has been taking an active role in preparing for the future, not only through the work of the council, and proactive, future-focused housing providers like Gentoo – who have built extra care schemes that will meet the housing needs that will be sorely needed for generations to come – but through the commissioning of Sunderland CCG; commissioning that allows us to deliver the Essence Service, a vital part of Age UK Sunderland’s work.

Essence, as the name suggests, is a service set up to help people diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s to keep the essence of themselves. The service is utterly life-changing for people in the city, and we see the results every day – we see that transition from being full of fear about what the future holds after the initial diagnosis, to people leading happy lives that are positively enriched by access to Essence.

One of the key things we believe is that we need to empower people with dementia to live as active a life as possible. And part of that process is about creating an environment that feels very comfortable and ‘normal’ but that is actually full of visual aids that enable people with dementia to very safely enjoy it.

The Sir Thomas Allen Centre – which was redeveloped specifically for people living with dementia – has been awarded a gold accreditation from Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC), in recognition of AUKS’s work to create an accessible, welcoming space, where people in the city can go to enjoy sessions that are specifically designed to stimulate memories and assist people who are in the early stages of dementia.

The centre is one of only two places in Sunderland to have achieved the award. So what makes it so special?

From the colour coding adopted throughout the centre and its ease of access through the entire building, to the nostalgic artwork that hangs on the walls reminding people of days gone by and stimulating their own memories, every little detail in the centre has been thought through to make sure that it contributes to an environment that is absolutely fit for its audience.

However, the centre is really just part of the picture. Essence is about showing people that life does not end with a dementia diagnosis.

Through art, talking with their peers, or even spending time with the centre’s visiting ‘pets’, Barney and Rupert, who join us once a week to spend time with our service users, we are not only are we unlocking memories from the past; we are creating new ones; and that is something truly rewarding.

To find out more call 0191 522 1310, email essenceservice@ageuksunderland.org.uk or drop in the Essence Service centre, at the Sir Thomas Allen Centre, Mill Hill Road, Doxford Park, Sunderland, SR3 2ND.


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