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Filmgoers, you might remember this

10 April 2015

Twentieth Century Fox

Old troupers: left to right: Celia Imrie as Madge; Ronald Pickup as Norman; Diana Hardcastle as Carol; Judi Dench as Evelyn; Maggie Smith as Muriel; and Bill Nighy as Douglas, in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Old troupers: left to right: Celia Imrie as Madge; Ronald Pickup as Norman; Diana Hardcastle as Carol; Judi Dench as Evelyn; Maggie Smith as Muriel;...

FROM The Notebook to Still Alice, Hollywood has periodically explored the subject of dementia on screen. Now a Christian charity is teaming up with a professor of ageing to research whether films could help to prevent the development of dementia.

The Damaris charity's Silver Screen initiative - a collaboration with Age Action Alliance, Rotary, and the University of Southampton - means that older people will be taken to film screenings, followed by quizzes and discussion.

A gala screening last month raised enough money for five local-community organisations to take 200 older people to the cinema.

The long-term aim is to raise enough money to reach what the charity says are one million older people in the UK "who always, or often, feel lonely; and the four million who consider the TV as their main form of company".

Damaris hopes that the trips will inform research into whether non-drug treatments, including intellectual stimulation and social engagement, can help to slow the cognitive decline of people who are in the early stages of dementia. It is working alongside Dr Roxana Carare, Associate Professor in Cerebrovascular Ageing at the University of Southampton, to explore this.

The research communications manager at the Alzheimer's Society, Dr Clare Walton, welcomed the initiative. "Research suggests older people who stay socially connected, and regularly take part in activities which stimulate the brain are at a lower risk of developing dementia," she said last week.

"Silver Screen sounds like a great way for people to do both of these, while also having fun. With the numbers of people with dementia set to rise to over one million by 2021, and currently no drugs that can stop its progression, interventions like this should be fully explored as a viable way for older people to keep their brains healthy for longer. Keeping loneliness and social isolation at bay can also have a positive impact on general quality of life for older people."

Films shown as part of the project would be "ones that have a particular resonance with older people", Emily Smart, of Damaris, said on Tuesday. "In some cases, that will be older films which many older people will have enjoyed when they were young, such as The Sound of Music.

"In other cases, it will be new releases which are particularly appropriate for older people. We showed The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in a recent pilot of the scheme."



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