The Podcasts

The idea for the Gaelic language lesson podcasts came from a local care home, initially, where carers without Gaelic were struggling to understand people with dementia, in particular, who had reverted to using Gaelic through the progress of the dementia.

Carers tend to be busy people and island life often dictates that people have several part time posts, leaving little time for language lessons yet it remains vitally important to understand people’s needs and language preference in care settings. The Dementia Friendly Communities Project team at An Lanntair, funded by Life Changes Trust offers creative engagement and creative problem solving to people living with dementia across the Western Isles.

I remembered hearing Italian lessons, motivational speeches and poetry in toilets in England and across Europe and I thought that it might be a fun idea to record language lessons on care and conversation themes  with Maggie Smith to offer to carers to listen to in the car, on headphones and to be played in care centre toilets, to offer ‘Gaelic without trying’. So far, Maggie Smith and myself have recorded two of these podcasts and this will continue to grow.

The idea progressed to Gaelic Culture podcasts, which was based around our developing Box Scheme project, to offer boxes of culturally specific memory tools, which will be distributed through the Mobile Library system across the islands. The oral tradition of the island culture is heavily steeped in storytelling, songs and poetry learned by memory, rather than written down and it was important for us as a project to share it orally, somehow, to a wide audience.

Maggie Smith and Donald Saunders have recorded a series of Gaelic Culture podcasts at Wee Studio, relating to island life and culture, in Gaelic and English, to be downloaded and shared by people across the islands. These can reach people in their homes, in groups, care centres and day centres and offer Gaelic language and cultural celebration, which has been highlighted as being particularly important and meaningful to people living with dementia. “Oh the Gaelic singing was wonderful, it meant so much to me, I had tears in my eyes. My culture, my language…” (from a lady attending Cobhair Bharraigh centre in Barra, on hearing Maggie Smith sing). “Oh I love the Gaelic, it’s who I am. It wasn’t fashionable when I first went to school but I’m so glad it is now.” (from a lady living at Blar Buidhe Care Centre in Stornoway during a project Gaelic chat and singing session with wool spinning).

The Dementia Friendly Communities Project is also working on a collaborative project with the NHS and Alzheimer Scotland to reach people in hospital with podcasts, Playlist for Life, personal digital libraries, project popups and dementia cafe  sessions.

Forthcoming podcasts will include personal stories from people living on the islands, project news (in particular the Woven Communities project work with Dawn Susan, the Museum and Dr Stephanie Bunn) and the development into some local radio work.

Paula Brown

Life Changes Trust



Project Blog

An Lanntair



Check out our Podcasts page – there are Gaelic language lessons there (Gaelic Without Trying series to enable carers to learn Gaelic without having to commit to lesson time) PLUS our Gaelic Culture Podcast series of beautiful songs, stories and poetry in English and Gaelic.

Please share it widely. It is intended for sharing with people in the community living with dementia, so please highlight this to anybody you know who works with, cares for, is related to or knows anybody across the islands who might enjoy them.

I will have some headphones and splitters next week for any care centres or hospitals who would like to share these with residents/patients/clients.

Technology event

I went to check out a technology event today at the Grianan Show Flat, a collaboration between Health, Social Care and Remoage (A Northern Peripheries funded project).

I found it really interesting how I perceived technology interventions as being restrictive, a bit Big Brother, perhaps even a violation of my rights and freedoms, putting myself in the position of using the technologies and how my perceptions changed as I heard about how things could be programmed, how it works in connection with early diagnosis and early conversations about how to support a person at home, how to prevent care home admissions. I would much prefer a GPS system to alert family to my potential danger of walking into the sea, for example, or a mattress alarm to alert family to the fact that I hadn’t gone to bed at all and could be in danger of hypothermia, rather than a care home admission or an injury or fatality.

NHS meeting Thursday

A meeting is shaping up for Thursday to collaborate across the NHS hospital wards and with Alzheimer Scotland to work on supporting Playlist for Life, to test out our sensory memory box and to offer project sessions and a series of Dementia Cafe sessions at the hospital. 

This represents a very positive step for the hospital, embracing new ways of working and creative, collaborative partnerships. I’m very warmed by the teams and individuals involved, working to improve the experience for people at the hospital. 



I had a conversation with Andy Hyde of Upstream today, which is a project curated by Life Changes Trust to investigate transport issues and support people with dementia to travel more effectively.

Andy is keen to work with us as a Gaelic speaking island community and we discussed ways of engaging creatively with the community here and the transport companies.

Andy is planning visits and sessions to work with us over the next few months.


The team signed off the branding outline from Good yesterday, so hopefully we will be ready to launch the project formally across the geographic remit before too long. I’m very much looking forward to the launch events signalling the start of working under a project identity. There are still some tasks to be completed but it’s a big step forward and it will offer valuable tools to identify and support the delivery of the project going forward.


I’ve been in Brazil for a couple of weeks for a family wedding and couldn’t resist finding out about how people with dementia are cared for and supported here and what the attitudes are.

Nurses told me that Alzheimer Brazil has offered information so that people understand what it is but there is still a great deal to be done. The most common reaction is of horror because of the immense impact on families. I found a research piece from 2008 and nothing has changed much in 8 years – families still spend the bulk of their income on caring for relatives.

Some carers find themselves living in favelas and working three or more jobs to cope with caring for relatives with dementia and other conditions while extended family help with care. I have heard stories beginning with ‘Oh yes, my cleaner is in a terrible situation, I’m trying to help her…’ and ‘My Great Aunt lives with my Mother and Grandmother because….’ and ‘she can’t afford to leave the favela because….’. It does seem to be the women who bear the weight of responsibility for caring here.

Medical care is offered, plus tax exemptions and free prescriptions for ‘patients’ (not carers) help a little but there is no social care and social security is limited to those who have contributed.
Alzheimer Brazil focus mostly on public information/awareness and early diagnosis.
More than a million people in Brazil live with dementia.
It is reported that families can spend 60-80% of their income caring for people at home with dementia.
People with dementia in Brazil can expect medical care (not social care), free prescriptions and exemption from income tax.

Yet people find a way. I have seen families out with their elderly relatives and there are plenty of free things to do here. The beach volleyball is free, even the World Grand Slam. I particularly enjoyed seeing a guy in his 80s at least enjoying a samba band with excellent dancing (by himself). Older people joined today’s protest against corruption. Extended families eat together at the serve yourself restaurants because it’s cheaper than buying food to cook here in Rio. I saw older, probably retired fishermen chatting daily with the current fishermen, offering advice on the equipment.

Older people are well respected here. They don’t have to queue at all, always welcomed to the front. Always seated first in restaurants and on the metro. It’s lovely to see.