Aughton and Ormskirk U3A Memory Course
Information for U3A members considering running the Memory Course at their own U3A
The Memory Course was created to meet members’ requests for practical information about memory and dementia. It was created by Dr Sylvia Dillon, a Consultant Psychologist, and Anne Stark, a retired Senior Occupational Therapist.
Mild memory problems can occur in later life; this is normal, as normal as having wrinkles and grey hair, but it can be a problem for some older people. Sometimes the problems are more severe, as in the various forms of dementia and this was of concern for some of our members.
The Memory Course
The aims of the Memory Course are to help members understand, prevent and manage every-day memory problems and to raise awareness on how to reduce the risk of dementia. It is NOT about learning lists or memorizing items, nothing could be further from the truth, rather it is practical and fun!
The Memory Course consists of 4 x 1½ hour sessions over a four-week period. It is for a closed group of 12 people. It is delivered by two co-presenters and supported by two adminis-trators. It is designed for peers to teach peers.
There is a presenter’s and administrator’s Handbook which explains HOW to run the course, and a course member’s Booklet of Notes which has the CONTENT of the course. The Handbook is an A4 book, 66 pages long, and printed in colour. The Booklet of Notes, and that’s what it is – notes, is an A4 booklet, 44 pages long and printed in black and white.
We have been told by some that the Handbook may appear pedantic, as it repeats issues in different ways. This is on purpose as it aims to keep the ethical considerations in mind.
Important Ethical Considerations
When designing the Memory Course we had to take into account ethical considerations. Teaching about one’s memory is not the same as teaching about general subjects such as local history or photography as one’s memory is personal, private, contributing to our self-identity and self esteem.
In our society we have a tendency to value people with a “good” memory and conversely are detrimental to people who have a “poor” memory – just think of all those jokes about older people’s memory abilities! If course members thought that their memory abilities would be exposed, they could experience distress.
Also we cannot know what experiences of dementia that members have had in the past or pre-sent situation, they may have their own fear of it, or they may care for (or choose not to care for) someone with dementia. We know that this is an area of some delicacy. We do not want members going home from the Memory Course and privately being upset or distressed.
U3A members come from diverse backgrounds, with a wide range of experiences and abilities, their personal reasons for coming to the Memory Course will also be diverse. The information they seek may be personal, and few will come solely for the acquisition of a general knowledge base about memory. So these ethical considerations underpin the design of the Memory Course and are incorporated into HOW the Memory Course is presented.
A psycho-educational style of teaching is used, and is easily presented. This style draws from the Rogerian student (person)-centred approach to learning and enables each member to take from the course what they need, whilst no-one’s memory abilities are exposed or assessed.
Research into efficacy
As there was much interest in the Memory Course we asked Drs Ian Fletcher and Zeshan Khawaja from the University of Liverpool to research into whether the course was effective. The research results were significant, showing that course member’s anxiety about their memory problems reduced, they changed their behaviour regarding memory, and their perceptions about their own memory abilities improved.
Sharing the Memory Course
These research findings together with the positive feedback we have had from members encouraged us to share the Memory Course with other U3As.
Responding to that interest, we produced the Handbook and the Booklet of Notes. Initially we sent out hard copies, but became overwhelmed by requests and ran out of time and energy, as well as boxes! So in 2015 we made PDF files of the books, which are sent by email. The U3A takes the PDF file to their local printers to get hard copies made. The PDF files are FREE. Despite what some people may have thought, we do not make any profit, rather in the spirit of the U3A (which we think is great) we share our knowledge freely.
However as we hold the copyright we have to think of the legal issues if the material is plagiarized. We ask that U3As respect our copyright and only use the PDF file for their U3A. At the moment we would prefer to trust U3As to act responsibly and respect our copyright but may in future ask U3As to sign a licence agreement.
Across the UK
At the last count, over 60 U3As across the UK are now running the Memory Course in their region, with many more requesting information. As some of these U3As have run it over 10 times, we estimate that over 4000 members have done the course. This is an exciting development and the Memory Course team is delighted, if a little amazed, by the enthusiasm.
The Memory Course, which started from a simple beginning, is growing into something useful. As one member said,
“Although it’s a small step, it’s one step forward to preventing dementia”.
If you would like further information about running the Memory Course in your U3A please email:
Aughton and Ormskirk U3A Memory Course Team
(Sylvia Dillon, Wendy Craddock, Ann Haskell, Norma Seddon and Anne Stark)