Namibia’s First Dementia Friendly Shop
The 19th July 2014 is a historic day in the history of Alzheimer’s Dementia Namibia. Well, it started back in September 2013, but was only realized now.
During my visit with Michaela Fink at the University of Giessen, I was invited to meet Verena Roth. As Verena, with Prof Reimer Gronemeyer, is involved with Dementia Deutschland, it was only logical for me to meet her.
During my meeting with Verena, I learned quite a bit, but the most important concept that I picked up was not to create ‘dementia bubbles’ for people with dementia. What this entails is not to create a modern way of caring for people with dementia somewhere that is out of sight and out of mind from our daily ‘normal’ lives. She told me about dementia friendly societies where people with dementia are still part of their normal societies.
On the plane back to Namibia I had a lot to think about as the concept grew on me.
Upon my return to Namibia, the trustees and I of ADN decided to try to find one village or town in Namibia that would be willing to transform into a dementia friendly town and society. In one of the towns that we picked, a business woman suggested that we needed to transform the businesses into dementia friendly business as this would in turn create a dementia friendly town.
Since then I have visited six towns with ADN’s awareness outreach ‘program’ to help ordinary people understand people with dementia, the sickness and its effects on society as whole. At the end of my presentation, I always present a challenge to the attending people to transform their town into a dementia friendly place – a place where people with dementia can live a quality life despite having dementia.
The small coastal town of Henties Bay was the last town on my list for the first half of 2014. The majority of the people living in Henties Bay are elderly, retired white Africans. (One of the local pastors here mentioned to me that the average age of his congregation members is 75.)
As I drove to Henties Bay, there was an expectation in my heart that the people of Henties would be open to hear what I had to say. I was incredibly happy to arrive at a fully packed congregation hall. What really amazed me was the amount of younger people present – one of them the owner of Henties Bay SPAR (the biggest local super market?) Daleen Agenbach stayed behind after the meeting and asked me if I’d be willing to train her staff. She was one of many people in Namibia who had a family member with dementia and had to deal with her daily in the shop.
And on the 19th July I returned to Henties Bay and trained 35 SPAR staff members. Only three of the staff members with the owner, were white Africans. All the rest were black Africans – a nation riddled with superstitions and witchcraft.
As we live in Africa and witchcraft is the foundation of most African cultures, I decided to use bewitching as a synonym for dementia. Maybe it would help to make things more clear as someone who is ‘bewitched” displays the same signs (symptoms) as someone with dementia.
Henties Bay SPAR is the first business in Namibia committed to support any person with dementia that enters their shop. Hopefully the staff members, upon reco.gnizing someone with dementia in town, will be able to help and assist them, instead of being scared of them and fleeing from them. Maybe this is the start of spreading the word that people with dementia are not dangerous or bewitched.
In my training of the staff members, I have relied greatly on the following website: Dementia Friends (https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/) as their videos on the topic is truly both inspirational and relevant.