A group of second and third year students from a local college have given the gift of glamour this Christmas to service users at a popular Berwick-based dementia support group.

Hair and beauty students from Northumberland College’s Berwick campus spent a morning providing complimentary treatments including manicures, hand and arm massages, and neck and shoulder massages to service users from the Berwick and District Friends of Dementia Group.

Known locally as the ‘Alz Café’, the independently-funded, not-for-profit Group provides support and advice for people either newly diagnosed with or in the early stages of dementia, as well as their friends and carers.

With over 45 regular service users from the local conurbation around Berwick-upon-Tweed, the Group, which meets weekly at the St Cuthbert’s Parish Centre, also provides activities such as boccia, seated exercise classes, music and singing groups and other games designed to help stimulate and engage service users with their peers.

Northumberland College, which also has campuses in Ashington, Ponteland, Hexham and Newcastle, has supported the Berwick and District Friends of Dementia Group for around four years.

Hair and beauty therapy course tutor at Northumberland College, Leanne Grethe, said:

“We were approached by Alz Café about the potential for some of our students to provide beauty treatments to their service users about four years ago and we have been going in regularly ever since!

“Carrying out the treatments for the dementia patients is great experience for the students. As well as it being just a nice thing to do and look back on, it also gives the students valuable experience in working with different kinds of clients and helps them to work on their communication skills.

“We always really enjoy our visits to the Alz Café but at Christmas, it is that little bit extra special. Margaret and the volunteers provide a fantastic service and we are always made to feel so welcome. We hope that we will continue to work alongside them for many years to come.”

Margaret Johnson, secretary at the Berwick and District Friends of Dementia Group, said:

“The Berwick and District Friends of Dementia Group was started as a lottery funded service seven years ago. When the funding ran out, Linda Trickett, our dedicated support worker encouraged the Group to go independent and we relaunched the service in 2014.

“The Group, or ‘Alz Café’ as it’s known, is just a happy place to be. It provides somewhere for people to come together to share their experiences, to laugh, to moan or even at times have a cry over a cup of tea. Everyone who uses the Centre is on the same, difficult journey together and the activities we host simply help to make that journey a little more enjoyable.

“We’re incredibly grateful to the students at Northumberland College for giving up their time to provide beauty treatments to our service users. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their day and we will look forward to welcoming the students back in the New Year.”

Northumberland College provides a range of academic and vocational training courses and apprenticeships from its campuses across the region.

For more information, visit www.northumberland.ac.uk.