Challenging stereotypes  around dementia

Dementia is a is a major public health issue, affecting an estimated 850,000 people in the UK alone – a number that is likely to rise in coming years. With no cure available and symptoms that include progressive memory loss and mental decline, the prospect of a life with dementia can seem bleak. 

A new project by Birmingham City Council, hosted on their Citizen Space site, aims to start reshaping thoughts and attitudes towards dementia in more positive ways.

The Dementia Letter Project asks people to write a letter to an imagined future self with dementia. The letters, which are written by people with dementia and their carers, aim to raise awareness of dementia and to challenge stereotypes about the condition.

Imagining a better future for people with dementia

Current narratives around dementia focus on the negative aspects. Those diagnosed may feel a loss of agency and guilt over being seen as a burden by relatives caring for them. Friends and family of people with dementia often struggle with watching a loved one forget shared memories or stop recognising them entirely.

The Dementia Letter Project is the brainchild of medical anthropologist Annelieke Driessen. According to Driessen, the project is an opportunity to reimagine these narratives:

“Imagining alternative futures with dementia is crucial because dementia diagnosis is not a fate. Through imagining alternative futures with dementia, we are not only thinking about what the future may hold for us, we are also actively shaping its possibilities. What is imaginable, becomes live-able.”

Creating engagement through Citizen Space

The Birmingham Dementia Letters project was brought to life using Citizen Space, Delib’s flagship software platform for community engagement. Citizen Space is a powerful, flexible platform that has helped many organisations within the UK to gather the data and insights they need to understand communities better and create real change.

Birmingham City Council have been a Delib customer for a long time. They’ve been using Citizen Space for public engagement projects since 2011, centralising all consultations into their ‘Birmingham Be Heard’ site. In addition to the Dementia Letters Project, the Council has also used Citizen Space to gather data on subjects like parking changes, bus routes, school restructures and accessible services for citizens.

Fostering lively community engagement on important issues can be challenging, and having to navigate complex systems often discourages people from sharing their views. Asking residents to share deeply personal and emotive information through frustrating software was the last thing the Council wanted.

Using Citizen Space for important community engagement projects such as the Dementia Letters project means that the team is able to gather residents’ valuable input on a platform that’s both easy to use and feels familiar. Ultimately, Birmingham’s Dementia Letters project will give the Council rich insights into the public’s perceptions of dementia, while also raising awareness at the point of response.

Using Citizen Space makes it much easier for the public to have their say on issues that affect them, which leads to better-quality data, allowing the Council to make more informed decisions that reflect the needs of the community.

Citizen Space is a citizen engagement platform trusted by government around the world. Government organisations and public bodies use Citizen Space to connect with more citizens, increase engagement and improve processes.

To learn more about what Citizen Space can do for your organisation, book a free demo and we’ll walk you through it.