Photography and storytelling: Alison Ward reports on her trip to Denmark

Date 12.11.2015

Alison Ward, Researcher at the University of Northampton’s Institute for Health and Wellbeing​, has recently returned from a four-week trip to Denmark. Alison’s visit was funded by a prestigious Travelling Fellowship, awarded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

Her aim was to support a photography and storytelling project with people with early stage dementia who attend a school in Aalborg Municipality, and to learn about creative activities and services which are being delivered in Denmark to support people with dementia.

VUK (Voksenskolen for Undervisning og Kommunikation), a school providing special education to adolescents and adults, provides cognitive training and creative lessons (art, music and woodwork) for people with dementia, who attend the school as students. Their aim is to focus on the person rather than the diagnosis and to ensure that people have access to lifelong learning. The school hosted a project to explore the students with dementia’s experience of being a student at the school. Students took photographs of their school activities and discussed these through workshops.

Alison commented: “Being given the opportunity to travel and learn from colleagues in Denmark has been excellent. Working closely with people with dementia on a project to explore their experiences of being a student at the school was inspiring; they place great value in their identity of being a student and having the opportunity to attend. It is important for them to tell people about the school and what a positive impact it has on their cognitive function, wellbeing, social activities and supporting daily living. I am proud to have been a part of this project and to be back in the UK sharing what I have learnt about the school and about using creative techniques in a research setting with people with dementia”.

“Visits with the Danish Dementia Research Centre, the Danish Alzheimer’s Association and other services have not only provided me with a better understanding of the similar issues we face, but also the ways in which we can learn from each other. For example I visited a cabin in the woods which people with dementia attend to look after the house. They work in the garden and take part in daily activities which support their skills and functioning at home, showing a different approach to dementia care services.”

Alison is writing a report which will be available on the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust website and will be presenting her findings at the University of Northampton and Open University. For more information regarding the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, visit the website.