DEMENTIA can be a damning diagnosis but weekly sessions offering friendship, respite and advice are helping sufferers and their carers in Yate.

The Monday morning social get togethers at Yate Leisure Centre launched two weeks ago and already have around 20 members who come along to meet other people going through a similar situation.

The sessions, which include coffee and a chat in the leisure centre café, singing and activities including table tennis, badminton and board games, are run by husband and wife team Mike and Jan Jones.

Mike, a mentor at South Gloucestershire Breakthrough, is a football coach at Yate Leisure Centre but is leading the project having been working with people with dementia for over a decade.

He said: “They are going well, some people have come along who are in the very early stages of dementia or are at a high risk.

“At our first week many people just chatted which was lovely.

“We think there is a demand for this type of thing in Yate. We have capacity for 25 people but may expand it to other centres if it goes well.”

He said the completely free sessions, provided by The Circadian Trust which runs the leisure centre in conjunction with the Yate Dementia Action Alliance, offered people with various types and stages of dementia an opportunity to express themselves in a fun and welcoming environment.

“It is so important that people with dementia maintain a high quality of life by taking part in activities and enjoying a sociable lifestyle,” added Mike.

“We look forward to welcoming people at the sessions and we hope that the people of Yate will join us in raising awareness to support the dementia community.”

Singing is well known to trigger memories and Jan, who used to facilitate Singing for the Brain sessions, plays the keyboard and sings familiar and old songs which members of the group can join in with.

Peter Morgan, 68, came to the first session with his wife Myrtle, 65, on November 9 just three weeks after being diagnosed with frontal temporal dementia.

“It started with memory loss and being unable to concentrate,” said Mr Morgan, of Downend. “It was really difficult finding the right words and sometimes the wrong words would come out.

“We knew for a while that things weren’t right but we were relieved almost to get the diagnosis.”

Mrs Morgan said: “It is a comfort to know other people are out there.

“We don’t know what is ahead of us, that is the most daunting part, so we want to meet other people going through the same thing now.”

There are currently 850,000 people with dementia in the UK with numbers set to rise to over a million by 2025.

Debbie Woolley, Yate community development worker and member of South Gloucestershire and Yate Dementia Action Alliance, said: "It was fantastic to see so many people attend our first session. “Looking after yourself physically and mentally can help manage symptoms and prevent isolation. We look forward to welcoming many more people along in the coming weeks."

Sessions will run from 10am to 12noon every Monday until Monday, December 14, restarting again in early January.