First Steps – Dementia Friendly Cathedral Tours with Winchester Rotary

This new Winchester Rotary project is led by Immediate Past President Deborah Macartney, Rotarian Diana Brooks, and Pam Meir, a very experienced cathedral guide. Dementia-friendly cathedral tours are not unique, but the project is the first of its kind in Winchester Cathedral.

The short, planned tours provide sensory and reminiscence therapy for those experiencing the early stages of dementia. This project is a partnership between Winchester Rotary and Winchester Cathedral. The costs are low, the benefits are high. Winchester Rotary will pay for an annual cathedral admission ticket for the person living with dementia – the carer has free admittance. We also pay for coffee after the tour. We are not responsible for transport or any such costs incurred.

After our pilot run, we welcomed our first guest and his carer on 24 July.  This visit proved to be a very successful and moving experience.  The tour was based around the history of the beautiful hand embroidered cushions and kneelers which have seen service in the cathedral since the 1930s. Designed and created by a group of cathedral broderers, brought to life with their history by Pam Meir, our guest was overwhelmed by their beauty and outstanding level of craftsmanship. He spoke of his wife often, who was a skilled needlewoman, he admired the architecture of the cathedral, and expressed his interest in the ancient woodwork, as he sat in the Quire on one of the famous cushions.

The essence of these tours is that they are not too long, stimulate memory, engender tactile responses, give listening time to our visitor, and give them a change of environment in one of the most beautiful buildings in the country.  It was the first visit to the cathedral for our visitor’s carer – like the person he cares for, he wants to come again.

We intend to create tours featuring other areas of interest, such as the fisherman’s chapel where our visitors will enjoy the tactile signals of the woodwork. 

We need help with spreading awareness about this rewarding project, through word of mouth and personal contact. We have teamed up with Bluebird Care, as the CEO is Norman Murphy, who many of us know through his previous membership of Winchester Rotary. 

We know the need is great. If you know of anyone who you feel would enjoy our tours, please get in touch with either: 

Deborah Macartney:

Diana Brooks: 

Photos can be seen here (all with requisite permission): Dementia Tour

Diana Brooks

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