Having a voice and influencing our society and future is a deep-seated need in every person
The Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project (DEEP) is a national network of social and influencing groups, all comprised of people who are living with dementia.
The network empowers otherwise isolated individuals to have a collective voice and to actively influence social and political change while supporting each other in living well with dementia. It feels exciting that small groups of motivated individuals can be so effective in achieving social and political progress.
As part of my work as a Research Consultant at the Mental Health Foundation, I provide part-time administrative support on the project and I feel that I am witnessing, and contributing to, the building and expansion of a social movement.
DEEP is an egalitarian project, with each group in the network setting their own political and social agendas to influence change. This provides a rare combination, offering a supportive haven and an outlet for people who are living with a dementia. I am truly a fan of DEEP because DEEP aims to fulfil a deep-seated need in every person, at any age—the need to feel that we have a voice, that we can influence our society and our future.
Over the past two years of working with DEEP, I’ve seen the network gradually expand and gain effectiveness. There were 16 groups in the DEEP network when I joined the project team over two years ago; there are now 37 groups, ranging from the Republic of Ireland to Wales and across England. I have no doubt this number will continue to grow rapidly over the coming year while existing groups will expand in their ambitions and successes. With more groups forming, generating greater interest, in several years the network could be huge.
The Dementia lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) seminar in London was a particular highlight for me. It was a thought-provoking chance to witness the collaboration of two significant social movements. Together, they highlighted shared issues, obstacles for people from LGBT communities to live well with dementia and ways to resolve issues.
The London networking event, focusing on London-based DEEP groups and dementia-friendly communities, was another significant highlight for me. Members of the Pan London Dementia Action Alliance, including health professionals and a Metropolitan Police Detective were invited to give their views and respond to questions from members of the DEEP network. During this event, it was heartening and amazing to see such a diverse group of people in one room, working towards common goals and recognising what can be improved.
As DEEP gains momentum, society has been taking dementia more seriously, with younger people now really thinking about what it might be like to live with a dementia. I am convinced that the DEEP movement will become increasingly significant in influencing how our society responds to ‘dementia’ in the future.