3Wheelin’; Fun, Friendships, Freedom

Headed by Dr Julie Christie, this project will explore shared experiences between people living with dementia and children with special needs in Belfast. People living with dementia in care homes have a lot to offer to others in society. The aim is to emphasise what people living with dementia can do to improve the lives of children with additional support needs.

One partner is Towell House, a registered charity, provides accommodation, care and support for up to 80 residents, many of whom have dementia. Clarawood School caters for pupils with social, behavioural, emotional and wellbeing needs. Many of the children live in poverty and have experienced hardship within their communities.

The goal is to create a shared learning and bonding programme for the school children and residents, using a trishaw as part of the Cycling Without Age programme. This aims to promote connections and care, stories and laughter, learning and hope. The experience of COVID-19 has taught us that connections are more important than ever before. Using a special trishaw, with a pilot at the pedals, children with special needs and adults with dementia can connect.

DSDT shares the hope that the unique experience of dementia could facilitate communication with children who can otherwise be overlooked, and, through this work, create shared interactions with the natural world through outdoor experiences. The programme can be adapted to meet COVID-19 distancing requirements and we can also be flexible with dates moving later into 2021.