A charity which provides social opportunities and activities for people with dementia is marking its fifth anniversary by announcing expansion plans. 

Silverline Memories began life as a monthly drop-in session in Gosforth attended by three couples to work with scores of people and their families across Newcastle, with the ethos of the organisation being about having fun and enjoying life. 

Now, the organisation is planning an expansion of both its service programme and geography, with it branching out in Peterlee to help increase the available support in County Durham. 

Silverline, based in the Dene Centre in South Gosforth, is also seeking to create a dedicated hub within its existing premises, which would enable it to host activities and the offer people the opportunity to drop in whenever they needed. 

To sustain such a facility would cost around £8,000 a year, and Silverline is appealing for support to help create such a valuable resource for people with dementia, their carers and families living in Newcastle and beyond. 

Sandra Hastings, chief executive of Silverline, founded the group in May 2014 after seeing first-hand the effects of dementia on two family members. The charity was boosted two years later after being awarded over £48,000 by the People’s Project to buy a minibus to take people out on day trips. 

“I set up Silverline because while there are activities and groups out there, I was struck by how little fun and enjoyment there is. I wanted to create something where people could come along and enjoy themselves, life is for living and it shouldn’t be seen as being doom and gloom. We want to provide a safe space where people living with dementia can come, with their carer or family or friends, and feel happy and comfortable,” she said. 

“From our first sessions with just three couples, it has really grown over time to work with as many people as we can accommodate, and our carer support groups are very popular – it is vital we look after the carers as they are dedicating so much of their lives to looking after someone else, they rarely make time for themselves. We also offer an early onset service, for people who are diagnosed at an early age, and our activities for them are geared towards more age appropriate things, like going to the cinema. With our own minibus, we have the flexibility to do that.  

“Now, we are looking to grow even further, and while our move to Peterlee is so far in its infancy, that is something we are going to develop. A big ambition of ours is to create a hub for us here at the Dene Centre – we have identified the space, but we need to raise the money to finance it. We have a fantastic team of volunteers here who would help us decorate it, but we need to be able to afford it. Our dream is to have a hub to be open whenever people need it and an even greater programme of activities.”

The charity has also been boosted through the appointment of Dr Victoria Armstrong as its Chair. Dr Armstrong is chief executive of Disability North, which is also based in the Dene Centre, and provides a central resource and offers support to people with disabilities of all kinds. 

“Victoria is a very knowledgeable and incredibly experienced person who has brought such life and energy to Disability North, and there are so many common areas and links between the services we provide. I believe she will really add significantly to our efforts to bring about a culture shift in how dementia is viewed. We are delighted she has become our Chair,” said Sandra. 

Dr Armstrong added: “I am delighted to take up this position with Silverline, who I have seen first-hand make a huge difference to the lives of people who have dementia, but importantly have also recognised the need for them to have fun and just enjoy themselves. That is something that is so often overlooked, but I love how central that is to everything Sandra and the team do. I look forward to working with Sandra, the trustees and fabulous volunteers as we enter this very exciting phase of further development.”