Young Onset Dementia Activists make the Tower of London more dementia friendly

BLG Mind’s Young Onset Dementia Activists (YODA) were recently invited to the historic Tower of London for an exclusive tour of the enchanting wildflower moat on Friday 30 June. In return, they shared their invaluable feedback on how to make the Tower more dementia friendly.

YODA supports people diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia, providing a space for members and their carers to talk about their situation with others in the same position. Dementia is considered ‘young onset’ when it affects people before the age of 65, many of whom are working professionals or parents to young children.

The Tower of London’s commitment to becoming more dementia-friendly aligns with the broader initiative of Dementia Friendly London, launched in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society in 2018. Recognising the importance of engaging with those directly impacted, the Tower of London has been inviting dementia groups to share their insights and experiences of visiting the historic landmark.

While the YODAs are no stranger to group outings, this trip marked a milestone as it was their largest so far, with 16 YODAs, 8 carers and 7 staff members joining the tour. The visit began with a few initial challenges, as some wheelchair users faced difficulties manoeuvring across the cobbled ground outside the Tower. However, any initial obstacles quickly faded away as the group found themselves immersed in the vibrant colours and scents of the colourful flowers populating the moat.

After strolling through the wildflower garden, exploring a small willow maze and taking plenty of pictures against the stunning backdrop, it was time for a delicious lunch and feedback meeting inside the historic palace. The session was run by Professor Stephen J Page of Hertfordshire University, who was keen to understand how factors such as the length of the tour and number of visitors in a group could affect accessibility.

The trip was made possible through the efforts of Jatinda Kailey, the Community Partnership Producer for the Tower of London, who organised the event. Throughout the day, the staff of the Tower of London showed exceptional care and support for the YODAs. From providing a lunch and refreshments to looking after the comfort and well-being of everyone, the Tower staff went above and beyond to make the experience thoroughly enjoyable for all involved.

Transport for the outing was generously funded by Innovations in Dementia. Having access to a coach played a vital role in making the day accessible to all, enabling YODA members who may have otherwise been unable to attend to join in the adventure and provide their invaluable insights.

As well as helping to make public spaces more inclusive, experiences like this can give a sense of empowerment and purpose to people living with dementia. YODA provides a vital lifeline to people under 65 and their carers, creating much-needed social spaces and a chance for people living with dementia to feel heard. YODA is funded entirely by donations.

We are very grateful to the Tower of London and Innovations in Dementia for making such a fantastic day possible. As a kind token of appreciation from the Tower of London, YODA will be attending a Wellbeing Day at the site later in the year. We look forward to visiting the beautiful palace again soon!

Interested in fundraising for your local Mind? Find out more on our Fundraising pages.