Fiona’s Blog: The Musselburgh Meeting Centre 8 months on…

When we opened the Meeting Centre at St Andrews High Church on 3 April 2023, we had a small group of members (4) and we had a place to meet. This place to meet has become our warm and welcoming home and very much valued by members, families, staff, and volunteers.

We have been so welcomed in by the congregation, many of whom come about the hall regularly and join us for coffee and chat. This small act makes a huge difference for our members, who tell us that before coming along to the meeting centre they often felt isolated and in some cases stigmatised by living with dementia. Members tell us that they “now feel that we are very much still part of the Musselburgh community”. And we are all looking forward to welcoming members of the congregation and wider community who have visited with us to our Christmas Coffee morning.

The meeting centre has allowed us to support our members in ways that are just not possible in any other setting. We work with the Adjusting to Change model where we do just that. We support people to adjust to the changes that living with dementia brings for them, as individuals, people who have stuff they still want to do or learn. We work together with members, friends and families so they can adjust to life with dementia so they can continue to live as well as they can for as long as they can. Often people feel they are unable to do the things they enjoy. We help them find ways to keep doing what makes life sweet in ways that work for them.

Whether you live with dementia or not, it is so important for all of us to feel valued and needed. Recently members helped to plant the “field” of poppies in the church garden for Remembrance Day and after our small act of Remembrance on 11th November we all enjoyed time in the garden, enjoying the sunshine and admiring everyone’s hard work. It was “truly braw” as our lovely volunteer Faye would say.

It’s important that the Centre is a place where people can do ordinary things – making decisions, everyday activities like making a cuppa, preparing food and enjoying eating together. It’s easy to take these simple daily tasks for granted, until you lose confidence. In the meeting centre, we have created an environment where members  plan what we do in the Centre and trips out.  Everyone can choose what they want to do and importantly what they don’t want to do. We create opportunities for people to do the things they love, whether it’s being creative, sitting outdoors or washing up.

Over the last 8 months we have seen confidence grow and demonstrating that living with dementia is not all about what you can’t do, but what you can do.  Sometimes it’s doing what you’ve always done. One member loves working in the kitchen, prepping and service food. ‘This makes me feel like ‘me again’ she told us with a tea towel in her hand.   Sometimes it’s learning something new – surprising yourself and others.  Another member has become our photographer, using his considerable professional skills. He has also  learned to use a digital camera and is now dabbling in taking photographs using the ipad and mobile phone!   Two members were supported to try Nordic walking with the Ageing Well group.  The both said  coming to the meeting centre and finding a like-minded pal gave them the confidence to try something new. As well as a tangible increase in confidence, there have also been other benefits and one of our intrepid walkers no longer uses a walker and goes out for a walk by herself.

There are many stories about how coming along to the Meeting Centre has not just been fun and games, it has made a serious different to people’s lives. Not only are members delighted to be doing what they love again and learning new skills, they are demonstrating to the world what is means to live with dementia – and not just exist. They inspire us all.

Eight months on from opening we have in Musselburgh, a very happy, busy, and fulfilled group of membersNone of this happens by magic. Alison Connell helped us to design a space that is comfortable and enabling, we have a great team, all trained in the Meeting Centre model and Dementia Friendly East Lothian’s approach and we are part of a community, welcomed by the congeration of St Andrews High Church and across Musselburgh. Many others behind the scene help us work from funding from East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, to support from colleagues in Alzheimer Scotland, Carers of East Lothian, Fringe by the Sea and many more.

2024 fast approached. We are looking forward very much to what the new year brings for the Musselburgh Meeting Centre.

If you are reading this and would like to visit the Musselburgh Meeting Centre and see for yourself what we get up to then contact me.

Take care and please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about what we do.




Fiona Barrett, Manager Musselburgh Meeting Centre

Tel: 07984 498870



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