Dorcas O. Akeju, OBE and Secretary of the African Elders Association (AEA) spoke to HOP about the good work it has been doing with elders in Liverpool since its origination 18 years ago. HOP has been working closely with the AEA over the past 12 months with a digitally-focused HOP Pot project.
“The African Elders Association, formerly called West African Elders, was set up in 1999 to reduce isolation and depression through social interaction, inclusiveness and cultural activities. Members are not just from Africa, but from England and other countries.
We provide cultural foods for lunch and games such as “Ayo” and listen to cultural music, which we use for our sit down exercises. We allow our elders to talk about their past, original countries and where they used to live; through these conversations elders can engage in debate and share their experiences.
We have been involved in dementia awareness activities for the past 3 – 5 years and provide reminiscence activities using photographs, music and items such as coins from different countries to remind elders of their past.
Leaders in the group help stimulate and guide the discussion, introduce exercises and activities and frequently use multi-sensory triggers to stimulate the return and reconsideration of memories. The benefits of this in terms of health and social well-being have become more and more valued.
Reminiscence is also a means of celebrating difference; bringing communities with different racial, cultural and religious backgrounds together to exchange life experience and that’s what we do at African Elders.
The activities assist in finding perspective – having an opportunity to share and reflect on one’s experience of life in a supportive atmosphere increases the elders’ sense of identity, their sense of who they are. It helps people to integrate the different parts of their life into a more meaningful whole.
We at AEA feel that sharing stories with people of the same generation, or even with much younger people, helps to develop a sense of self as a participant in the great social and historical upheavals of the last century; this is important in giving the elders a sense of their individual importance”.
The African Elders meet monthly at Toxteth Town Hall from 12noon – 3pm. New members are always welcome.
For more information about the African Elders Association contact Dorcas O. Akeju, OBE on firstname.lastname@example.org.