Employees at M&S Chester hosted a special Dementia Friends shopping morning.

The event, attended by Chester Angels, Age UK and the Chester Alzheimer’s Society, was to raise awareness of the challenges that people living with dementia face in the retail environment.

M&S works closely with the Alzheimer’s Society and has committed to empowering every one of its 80,000 colleagues to become a Dementia Friend.

Dementia Friends learn more about what it’s like to live with dementia and then turn that understanding into action, from helping someone to find the right items when shopping to spreading the word about dementia on social media.

Marks and Spencer Chester host shopping morning to raise awareness of Dementia Awareness Week. Pictured left to right: Archive and Outreach Officer, Katie Entwistle, Liz Ratcliffe, Margaret Bowyer and Betty Barwise.

Representatives from the Chester Alzheimer’s Society and the company’s Dementia Friends Champion Bev Myers held short talks with the attendees about what retailers can do to improve the shopping experience for those living with the condition.

Representatives from The M&S Company Archive, based at the University of Leeds and housing more than 70,000 items charting the retailer’s 130 year history, also attended the event to demonstrate how reminiscence therapy and sharing memories can be a sociable and enjoyable activity for those with dementia.

The Archive’s Reminiscence Packs, which feature handpicked items specifically chosen to inspire people’s interests and spark memories, were on display for guests to engage with.

Bev Myers, said: “Around a quarter of all people living with dementia feel that they can no longer go shopping, despite it being one of the activities they enjoy most. We want to do something to change that by ensuring that all of our customers feel comfortable shopping with us, and help provide a dementia friendly high street.

“Our Dementia Champions drives our programme in-store, offering fantastic support to our customers, from helping them out with finding specific items to greeting them with a friendly, welcoming face when they’re shopping with us.

“We were delighted to be able to meet with groups such as Age UK and Chester Angels to hear about the experiences of their members and share details of some of the initiatives we’re undertaking to make M&S a welcoming environment for them. As a store, we are proud to say we are dementia friendly.”

Services Manager at Cheshire West & Chester Alzheimer’s Society Diane Riley added: “By opening their doors to the support groups, and encouraging their employees to learn more about how they can become dementia friendly, M&S Chester is a leading example of how Alzheimer’s Society believes other retail organisations should act to support people with dementia shopping in their stores. Alzheimer’s Society is aiming to have four million Dementia Friends by 2020, to help make England more dementia friendly and improve the lives of the 670,000 people currently living with the condition.”

Marks and Spencer Chester host shopping morning to raise awareness of Dementia Awareness Week. Pictured: Archive and Outreach Officer Katie Entwistle with Cafe Staff Liz Ratcliffe, Section Co-Ordinator's Bev Myers and Sonia Au, Plan A Champion James Marshall and Services Manager for Alzheimers Di Riley.

The Archive’s Reminiscence Packs are available to loan to anyone interested in running their own reminiscence session or activity. The reminiscence packs contain a selection of historical items based on two themes – ‘What We Wore’ and ‘Childhood’. The packs contain great resources for older people’s groups, care home residents or other community groups.

If you would like to borrow one of the packs, please contact the Archive team on 0208 718 2800 or email companyarchive@marks-and-spencer.com, or visit https://marksintime.marksandspencer.com/home