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Cinemas throughout the UK are opening their doors to people living with dementia during World Alzheimer’s Month

Cinemas nationwide are encouraging people with dementia to come and enjoy a favourite film this month. Relaxed screenings of classic movies such as Some Like it Hot and Casablanca are being held at cinemas throughout the UK during World Alzheimer’s Month, so that everyone on the dementia journey (including family, friends and carers) can experience the magic of the movies again.

This month’s series of events is part of a long term strategy by the BFI Film Audience Network to make cinemas more dementia-friendly. All cinemas taking part this month have received training and support to make sure they understand the needs of people with dementia. ‘Evidence has shown that engagement with the arts, including cinema, enhances mood, increases confidence and connects people with dementia,’ says Professor of Neuropsychological Genetics Julie Williams. ‘This is why the upcoming programme of film events is so important.’

Films being shown include Jailhouse Rock! High Society, and Funny Girl. More contemporary films such as Mama Mia, Matilda and the newly released Victoria and Abdul (staring Judi Dench) are also being given dementia-friendly screenings.

Dementia-friendly screening usually mean that lights will be dimmed, but not turned off completely so that audiences can move around if they want to. The film volume will be a little lower than usual and there’ll be no trailers or adds to sit through. Dementia-friendly screenings might also include live entertainment and free tea, coffee and biscuits – and of course it’s perfectly okay for the audience to sing, chat or leave if they’ve had enough.

Some cinemas already have regular dementia-friendly screenings, which Unforgettable highlighted a few months ago here. But this is the first time that venues throughout the UK have joined forces to create a wide and varied programme of events.

‘Thirty four per cent of people currently living with dementia in the UK don’t feel part of their community,’ adds Hana Lewis, Strategic Manger of Film Hub Wales. ‘Film not only has the power to bring communities together, but it is a powerful tool to improve mental wellbeing and confidence.’

Ivor James and his wife Margaret who has vascular dementia have already experienced the joy a trip to the cinema can bring. ‘We saw Calamity Jane and Margaret could remember some of the numbers and was singing along to them,’ says Ivor. ‘She loves musicals. The old classics help trigger her memory and it’s lovely to see her show some park; an inkling of understanding.’

The first dementia-friendly screenings will take place on September 6 when Jailhouse Rock! Is screened at Picturehouse cinemas.