Film industry heavyweights unite against dementia

UK cinematic experiences are made more inclusive by industry influencers.

Alzheimer’s Society, BAFTA-winning actress Carey Mulligan, the UK Cinema Association, and the BFI Film Audience Network have united against dementia to produce a new dementia-friendly screenings guide – presented for the first time to many of the industry’s most influential film bodies at a private event at Hackney Picturehouse, London.

The Dementia Friendly Screenings guide – ‘A guide for cinemas’ has been developed by experts from the film industry together with Alzheimer’s Society and they are calling on all cinemas and theatres to become dementia friendly and hold dementia friendly screenings.

The guide is easily downloadable from alzheimers.org.uk/cinema.

Dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer. Someone develops it every three minutes and it’s set to affect 1 million by 2021 – but there is currently no cure. Those impacted by dementia often give up the day to day things they love due to inaccessible and unsupportive environments.

Visiting a cinema is one of life’s pleasures, which most of us take for granted. Cinemas have an important part to play in tackling the social impact of dementia, by enabling people living with the condition to feel confident and welcomed to get out and about in their local community.

The new guide not only offers practical advice on how to make venues more dementia-friendly and accessible, it also explains how to promote screenings effectively and adjust programming to be inclusive for all. From lowering the volume to using clear signage, the guide’s tips are easy to implement and it is filled with stories from people with dementia on what really works for them.

For a person living with dementia, watching a film in the cinema has many benefits. It can promote activity and stimulation of the mind, can be an important tool of reminiscence, and is associated with relaxation, engagement and, above all, enjoyment.

Lorraine Brown, diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2014 at the age of 61, said about the dementia friendly cinema guide:

'I’ve always loved going to the cinema but it isn’t always easy being a customer with dementia. There are lots of easy changes cinemas can make so that people, like me, feel confident to continue doing the things they love. When my local cinema lit up the aisle better, I could see my seat number and easily get in and out of the room if I needed to. It’s great to know cinemas can use this guide to make things better for people with dementia. It’s such a pleasure here in my hometown launching this newdementia-friendlyy guide today. I want everyone to know I am Lorraine first and a person with dementia second.'

BAFTA®-winning actress and Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador, Carey Mulligan, whose grandmother ‘Nans’ lived with dementia said about the guide:

'Film has such a proud history of giving voice to those who do not have one. Becoming dementia friendly means cinemas can continue this by ensuring that everyone – regardless of any condition – feels welcome, supported and valued to take part in the cinematic experience.'

'Creating a social space where those affected by dementia can enjoy a simple leisure activity with their loved ones is so important, and helps to create a more inclusive society for all.'

Everyone has a right to participate in the experience of going to the cinema, and with 850,000 people living with dementia and 700,000 carers in the UK there is an enormous audience for cinemas and independent film clubs.

Emma Bould, Programme Partnerships Project Manager, Alzheimer’s Society said:

'For many people, cinemas are incredibly important and a constant feature throughout our life. They can promote activity and stimulation of the mind, improving physical and mental health by keeping active. The importance of such venues increases as we get older, as a place to relax, recover and engage through multi-sensory stimulation of the film around us.'

'Dementia friendly screenings aim to make cinema a key part of a dementia friendly community by providing an accessible, fun and inclusive experience to enable people living with dementia, their families and carers to attend the cinema in a safe and welcoming environment. Going to the cinema is a chance for people with dementia to participate in an everyday activity, and not be reminded of their dementia.'

'When a business gets it right for people with dementia, it gets it right for everyone. There are competitive advantages to becoming dementia friendly including increased revenue, improved customer service and future-proofing their products and services.'

Phil Clapp, Chief Executive, UK Cinema Association said:

'The growth of dementia friendly screenings is another example of the UK cinema sector's commitment to ensuring that watching a film is a fully inclusive experience for everyone. This guide brings together the learnings and experience from a number of the pioneering cinemas that currently provide a regular programme of dementia-friendly screenings. We hope that the contents will not only inform but also encourage more cinemas across the country to embark on this rewarding journey and enable more customers to once again enjoy the big screen experience.'

The guide is flexible and can be used by national cinema chains, independent cinemas, theatres, community centres, or any groups (such as schools, social groups, cinema clubs) who could host dementia-friendly screenings of any size.

Jennifer Smith, Head of Inclusion, BFI said:

'As outlined in our five-year strategy BFI2022, we believe that everyone, everywhere in the UK should have the opportunity to enjoy a diverse range of film. With inclusion running through everything we do, we are delighted to partner on this project which offers very clear and practical guidance on enabling cinemas to welcome audiences affected by dementia.'

Defeating dementia won’t just happen in a lab or in a care setting, we need a whole societal response. Through its Dementia Friendly Communities programme, Alzheimer’s Society is working with communities and industries to create a step change in the way people think, talk and act about the condition. There are now over 300 dementia friendly communities across the UK where people with dementia feel active, engaged and valued and can continue to lead the lives they choose. Businesses in industries from travel and leisure to utilities and health are all working with Alzheimer’s Society to support these communities.

To get support on becoming dementia friendly or download the cinema guide, visit alzheimers.org.uk/cinema or email programmepartnerships@alzheimers.org.uk.

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