A WOMAN with dementia is playing a role in helping Teesside International Airport make improvements for customers living with the condition.

Former special needs teacher Lorraine Dunn, of Darlington, visited the airport at the invitation of key staff to conduct a detailed audit of the customer journey.

The 68-year-old, who was diagnosed six years ago, suggested changes to signage, lighting, layout, and other aspects of the environment to make it more welcoming and inclusive for people with dementia.

Staff have been working closely with Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia Friendly Darlington and Dementia Friendly Middleton St George to make Teesside a dementia-friendly airport.

The Northern Echo: Airport internal walk-through (l to r) Helen Pearce, Lorraine Dunn, Shirley Gray, Faye Parry. Picture: ALZHEIMER'S.ORGAirport internal walk-through (l to r) Helen Pearce, Lorraine Dunn, Shirley Gray, Faye Parry. Picture: ALZHEIMER'S.ORG

Read more: Man banned from keeping animals for life found with three dogs in his garden

Inviting Lorraine on the visit enabled them to gain insights into how welcoming and inclusive the airport appears from the perspective of someone living with dementia.

Lorraine was accompanied on the ‘walk-through’ by Faye Parry, Service Delivery Manager for Teesside International Airport, Helen Pearce, a passenger services consultant, and Alzheimer’s Society employee Shirley Gray, the lead for Dementia Friendly Middleton St George, where the airport is located.

Faye and Helen made notes of Lorraine’s observations as she visited the airport’s check-in facilities, shops, bars and cafes, waiting areas, toilets, baggage claim and more.

Faye said: “It’s important to us to do all we can to meet the demands of all our passengers. None of us are experts when it comes to dementia, so that’s why it has been so valuable involving Alzheimer’s Society and Lorraine to help us improve the experience for those who come here. It’s all about making little changes that can make a big difference.”

The Northern Echo: Lorraine Dunn at Teesside Airport. Picture: ALZHEIMER'S.ORGLorraine Dunn at Teesside Airport. Picture: ALZHEIMER'S.ORG

Read more: Teesside Airshow announces even MORE exciting displays after five year break

Lorraine said: “Being told I had dementia came as a huge shock to me. I had been having memory problems for some time and just thought it was part of getting old.

“I’ll admit I cried the night after my diagnosis, but when I woke up the following morning I thought ‘stuff it, it’s not going to beat me.’

“I was thrilled to be asked to visit the airport and to share my insights. People with dementia are a valuable part of communities and should not feel shut out.”

It was Shirley Gray who made the initial approach to the airport, working closely with Dementia Friendly Darlington and Alzheimer’s Society’s dementia friendly programmes to make Middleton St George a dementia friendly community.

The Northern Echo: Staff from Teesside Airport with their dementia-friendly certificates. Picture: ALZHEIMER'S.ORGStaff from Teesside Airport with their dementia-friendly certificates. Picture: ALZHEIMER'S.ORG

Read more: Parts of the North East at risk of being flooded every year in the next decade

She said: “From the outset we’ve had wonderful support from Faye and Helen. It’s been a pleasure working with them.”

Chloe Hanlon, head of service and transformation for Teesside International Airport, said: “We want it to be welcoming for everyone including those with disabilities, whether they are physical or hidden.

“However, we were conscious that we might be making assumptions about people with dementia, which is why inviting Lorraine here was so important to us.”

Belinda Williams, Alzheimer’s Society dementia friendly communities coordinator in Darlington, said: “Dementia Friendly Darlington works together with people affected by dementia, local communities, businesses and people of all ages to make Darlington a place where people with dementia are included, have a voice and can fully participate, as they choose.”


Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Teesside Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054