A new collection of stories of Farnham and its residents has been created thanks to a project run by the Sunflower Café which supports people with dementia and their carers.

The Sunflower Book of Shared Memories was launched at a tea party last month at Farnham Town Council Offices exactly a year after the project was initiated at a ‘writing memories’ workshop run by the Farnham Herald and Revd Stella Wiseman from the Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale in north Farnham.

Linda Katz, a Sunflower Café volunteer, carried the project forward by running 90-minute workshops every other month, encouraging café members to share memories of their lives, which they did despite many of them having diagnoses of dementia. Memories were sparked by pictures, objects and conversation about places in Farnham, many of them now long gone. Linda used the sensory memories of places like Farnham’s swimming pool and town centre tobacconist to evoke memories.

The stories span the years from 1934 to 2024, beginning in Germany where the oldest Sunflower Café member was born, and taking in participants’ lives both before and since they moved to Farnham. These have been collected in a loose-leaf, laminated book which can be added to as more memories emerge.

Linda discovered that the collection was not the project’s only tangible benefit. The participants’ communication and confidence developed. “On occasions, this encouraged people to share difficulties they feel as a direct result of Dementia and Alzheimer’s, such as the fear of being considered socially unacceptable, therefore feeling isolated and, particularly for carers, intermittent loneliness at home.” They also developed friendships and there was a growing understanding that everyone’s opinion matters.

Sunflower Café is run by Right at Home which supports older people. To find out more and see the memories book, visit rightathome.co.uk or call 01252 986144.