The East of England Co-operative Society has been shortlisted for an award recognising its work towards improving attitudes and understanding of dementia.
The society received a nomination for the Staff Education Award at this year’s Better Society Awards for its Dementia Friendly Initiative.
The roots of the initiative go back to September 2014, when East of England made a pledge to become the nation’s leading Dementia Friendly retailer. It began a programme of training and raising awareness among staff to change the way people think, act, and talk about dementia.
Minnie Moll, joint chief executive of East of England Co-op said: “As a community retailer it’s important that we support all of our members and customers to retain their independence and feel part of their community for as long as possible.”
A survey by Alzheimer’s UK showed that 80% people with the condition named shopping as their favourite activity. However 60% said they didn’t think retailers were doing enough to help people with dementia. 23% said they had stopped shopping because of their dementia.
All 4,7000 members of staff at East of England Co-op – the largest independent retailer in East Anglia – were invited to take part in learning opportunities created by the society in conjunction with the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance. These opportunities included face-to-face sessions and an e-Learning package. There was also a special session for the security team attended by Ipswich Street Rangers – community members who act as ambassadors for the town centre, patrolling the streets and working with police and local businesses.
“We know that popping to the Co-op and speaking with one of our store colleagues may be the only social interaction that person living alone has for days or even weeks,” said Ms Moll. “For people living with dementia there may be challenges going shopping so ensuring our colleagues have the knowledge and support to make those interactions positive is a key part of us becoming a leading dementia friendly retailer.”
East of England was established in 1846 and has a range of businesses including food retail, funeral, travel, pharmacy and post offices. Each year the society invests around £250,000 in supporting communities. Over the last few years, £250,000 has gone to healthcare projects and around £120,000 to smaller community projects. Members can vote on which projects to support when they shop.
The Better Society Awards – organised by the Better Society Network – are now in their second year. This year’s winners will be announced at a gala dinner on 12 May. You can see the list of finalists at bettersociety.net/awards.