How Baking Can Help People Living With Dementia

Elton House’s Cheslyn residents enjoyed baking with Danine and Alison from CookCamp (   The cookies were thoroughly enjoyed by all later with a cup of tea!

For almost 10 years, Danine Irwin (who trained as nutritionist and has a teaching life skills qualification) has run CookCamp and together with her team of helpers, she has worked with children, young people and the elderly running food and nutrition workshops. She has been accepted to study a Masters in Dementia Studies this September.

Since May 2017 Danine and her helper, Alison Rodol, have been running weekly cookery workshops at the Betty Asher Loftus Centre, in North London, for residents living with dementia; and since May this year, they have rolled the programme out to residents living with dementia at Elton House in Bushey.

The cookery workshops are a ‘participatory art’ or as Danine puts it, “art on a plate”; they are stimulating and therapeutic, engaging residents in many ways, through social interaction, stimulating both cognitive and motor skills abilities, re-igniting one’s memory and key senses (especially touch, taste and smell) and sessions are person-centered.

Danine and Alison welcome the residents who wish to participate to a cluster of tables and chairs – where it is set up with tablecloths and kitchen equipment (to help them associate the cooking activity with something familiar). The group make cakes, cupcakes, biscuits, macaroons and also include some savoury recipes too, like sausage rolls and cheese puffs. The delicious food is shared out amongst residents during the afternoon.

Everyone around the table joins in, from reading the recipe, weighing, cracking eggs, cutting, bashing, grating, making and mixing. Each person is encouraged to participate, and each is given special attention to help them, if necessary. The ingredients are passed around and participants are invited to smell each one, remind ourselves of the different aromas.

Whilst the recipe is cooking, a game is usually played, such as a food quiz or food bingo, or a group discussion comes about by Danine and Alison chatting to residents about food memories together. We listen to residents’ stories of cooking, their favourite foods and places they may have travelled to and foods that they have eaten.

Cookery sessions at Elton House take place on Tuesdays at 10.45am