How people living with dementia and children have helped to create the first global youth animation

At Alzheimer’s Society we believe in working with other national Alzheimer’s Associations and global partners to collaborate and share learning towards the global dementia challenge.

In doing so we must regularly ask ourselves, how can we make our resources more universally applicable and culturally appropriate? How can we make a difference to people living with dementia globally? And of course, how can we learn from this and improve our efforts nationally?

We have been asking these questions daily during the development of our new global youth animation. Luckily, we have gained a lot of insight from people living with dementia, young children and Alzheimer Associations from different countries.

Why educate young people in dementia?

Nearly a third of young people in the UK know someone with dementia. As the population ages and the number of people living with dementia increases, more and more young people are likely to be affected through family and friends. It is universally recognised that by educating people about dementia we can help reduce stigma and increase understanding. If we start this education with children, we can help to create a dementia-friendly generation; a generation of young people who are not afraid to speak about dementia, who understand how they can help and make people affected by dementia feel involved in their communities.

Alzheimer’s Society has already made great strides in creating dementia resources for children such as adapting our Dementia Friends programme and creating dementia resources for schools.

However there is still a lot more to be done. How can we create a resource which can help raise understanding of dementia globally?

Why a global animation?

To kick start this project, we held a consultation with the 16 Alzheimer Associations around the world that are currently involved with the global Dementia Friends programme. We wanted to find out what resource would work best for all. We therefore asked what resource they felt would be most engaging for the youth of their country, and from their experience, what would have the biggest impact. The answer was unanimous: they wanted an animation.

With this feedback we set out to create a global youth animation which would:

1)  Complement Alzheimer’s Society’s existing Key Stage 2 youth materials for 7-11 year olds in the UK.

2)  To engage young people with Dementia Friends programmes globally.

3)  We’re also hoping that it will be an invaluable resource for anyone living in low and middle income countries where the level of stigma surrounding dementia is particularly high.

People living with dementia driving the project forward

If creating an animation wasn’t exciting enough, the level of involvement and feedback from people living with and affected by dementia with this project has been exhilarating! We want to ensure that the animation represents dementia in a considerate and accurate way. Not only will the Dementia Friends key messages feature throughout the animation, but we also wanted to know what people living with dementia would want to tell young people about.

During the development of the script, we visited three focus groups made up of people living with dementia. In total, 19 people living with dementia contributed to the script’s content, with each focus group informing the changes to the succeeding script. The feedback they offered was invaluable in ensuring that dementia was portrayed suitably and realistically in the animation. The participants were so enthusiastic and excited about the project and it was great to be able to incorporate the views of so many people living with dementia!

Young people have their say

Alongside the focus groups of people living with dementia, the Holy Family Catholic Primary School in Liverpool, which is already really engaged with Dementia Friends and dementia-friendly initiatives, held a session with a group with 20 children between the ages of 7 and 11 (our target audience!). They first reviewed the script, offering comments for improvement which were really insightful and mature. For example, some of the children perceived the original script to be slightly upsetting, which is something we certainly don’t want to do! We took their feedback on board and edited the script so that it created a true depiction of dementia, but was done in a way which was softer to address these concerns.

I visited the school a few weeks later for a second session to discuss the final script and the first designs of our characters. The script was received positively and the children really engaged with the underlying messages. They even suggested adding in content about how people’s perception can change when living with dementia, something they were aware of from their previous school work. We thought that this was a great idea and added it to the script.

We then reviewed the three initial character concept designs that had been provided by our animators. The discussion that followed focused on the animation style, the colours used and the likeability of the characters. I fed this back to the animators who incorporated the feedback into the future character design. All in all the day was really valuable and I was impressed with the children’s engagement with the project and with the topic of dementia in general.

Having input from so many relevant parties during the development of the animation has really helped us work towards creating a universal, informative and engaging animation that can be used worldwide. We look forward to sharing the completed animation with you soon – keep your eyes peeled!

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