North East-based charity, Wag & Company North East Friendship Dogs, invited its volunteers to become Dementia Friends at the first ever ‘Wag Event’ at The Baltic in Gateshead last week, ahead of Dementia Action Week (21st – 27th May).
Wag & Company aims to reduce loneliness in older dog lovers in the North East by enabling professionally assessed volunteers and dogs to visit them. This service befriends older people both in care or medical facilities and, unique to the North East, those still living in their own homes.
The charity launched in May 2016 and has almost 200 volunteers (“Visiting Wag Teams”) in action across the region; from Yarm up to Belford, across to Haltwhistle and everywhere in between.
On 17th May, the Wag Event brought together many of the charity’s volunteers for the first time. Speakers shared their expert knowledge; David Dawson, expert in older people’s health from Northumbria Healthcare Trust spoke about the impact of loneliness on frailty, and David Ryan explained how animal owners don’t need to be the boss.
Karen Gibson, a Dementia Friend Champion, shared her knowledge and advice on how to support people living with dementia. Many of Wag & Company’s volunteers became Dementia Friends as a result, making a commitment to share what they had learned.
The event was sponsored by Corporate Partner, Harvey & Hugo, a PR, social media and content marketing agency headquartered in Darlington.
Harvey & Hugo’s Managing Director, Charlotte Nichols, who has joined Wag & Company’s board as PR and Marketing Director, addressed the group and explained why the charity is so close to her heart.
Diane Morton, founding director of Wag & Company, said: “It was wonderful to have so many of our volunteers together in the same place and fantastic for them to hear from the Healthcare Trust that their visits are as important to elder health as medical treatments. We were delighted that they also had the opportunity to support the work of the Alzheimers Society by becoming Dementia Friends.
“We are so grateful to the subject experts who gave their time to make this a really interesting afternoon, and to Harvey & Hugo for enabling the event by providing such an iconic venue.”
So far, Wag & Company has made over 20,000 friend visits and is touching over 1300 lives, but there is a huge need across the North East and many more volunteers are required. Thousands of elderly people describe themselves as lonely all or most of the time, many of whom have been dog owners and now badly miss friendship, and the company of a dog.
Wag & Company has ambitious plans to grow its volunteer numbers over the next two years, making loneliness less of an issue for older people in the North East.
For more information on Wag & Company and ways to support its work, see www.wagandcompany.co.uk