Work is under way to help Barnstaple become a ‘dementia friendly’ town – and the Gazette has become one of the campaign’s first advocates.

Let's Talk About It - the North Devon Gazette's campaign on mental health.Let's Talk About It - the North Devon Gazette's campaign on mental health.

Gazette editorial and sales staff took part in a Dementia Friends workshop on Thursday to 
gain a basic understanding of what dementia is, how it affects people and how we can help people to live well with the illness.

The 45-minute Alzheimer’s Society session was presented by Ailsa Elkins-McDonald, chairman of the Barnstaple Dementia Action Alliance (BDAA), at our office in Old Station Road.

Editor Andy Keeble said: “There is much we can do to make life easier and more enjoyable for those living with the illness.

“It could be something as straightforward as taking more time to listen, speaking slightly slower or using simpler words and sentences.

“Being dementia aware is the first step – if we can help support people with positive emotional experiences when they visit our office, it really can help make difference.”

The BDAA now hopes that more businesses, shops and organisations in Barnstaple will agree to host dementia friends sessions as part of its work towards official recognition as a dementia friendly town.

Ailsa said: “The Gazette is the first business to host a workshop but we hope many more will follow over the coming weeks and months.

“Dementia affects one in 14 people over the age of 65 but unlike with cancer, where some people lose their hair, it is very difficult to tell if someone has dementia. However, with a basic understanding, you can spot the signs and help people to live well in their community.”

Barnstaple Mayor Julie Hunt has pledged to make the town ‘dementia aware’ during her time in office.

Mrs Hunt, who recently attended an Alzheimer’s Society event in Plymouth to become a dementia champion, said she hoped to run friends sessions for town council colleagues.

“I’m really out to get Barnstaple on board with this,” she said.

“My gran had dementia and we found it difficult to cope but there is so much more we could have done to help her if we had been more aware.

“It’s quite sad because she used to tap her fingers all the time and we didn’t know why. She used to be a piano teacher and it’s only since we’ve learned more about dementia that we’ve realised why she was doing it.”

Any Barnstaple businesses or organisations interested in hosting a dementia friends session can call Ailsa on 07516 879418 or email

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