A month-long social experiment following a restaurant in Bristol staffed entirely by people living with dementia is being filmed for an upcoming Channel 4 programme.
The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes hopes to help take away some of the stigma associated with the brain condition which is now regarded as the nation’s biggest killer.
Inspired by a pop-up diner in Japan, TV chiefs hope the show will change the perceptions of viewers - and employers - about dementia as a host of celebrities and members of the public put the newly-trained staff to the test in the high pressure catering industry.
According the the programme’s makers, the number of people with dementia in the UK is forecast to increase to over 1 million by 2025.
The condition does not just affect the elderly, though – over 40,000 people with dementia are under the age of 65.
However, only a fifth of those suffering have continued to work after their diagnosis, despite so many being of working age.
One woman who is working at the restaurant, Jacqui, was a lawyer before her condition was confirmed.
"I certainly don’t want to be out of work," she explained to BBC Radio Bristol.
"I want to be able to work. I’ve got to have a purpose in my life.
"This mean a lot to me.
Another restaurant worker, Steven, stresses why he wishes to help change the way dementia is viewed in the workplace, as well as on a wider level.
"We’re portrayed as little old ladies sat in a wheelchair in a convalescent home and that’s not the case," he said.
"If you were in a wheelchair or you had a broken leg people can notice what you’ve got.
"But because [dementia] is in your head and you see people walking about you don’t get the proper picture of that person."
A determined Steven continued: "I like to make people aware that we’re just like everybody else.
"You could still actually do a little bit of work. You don’t necessarily have to be stuck at home or on the old scrap heap. You could actually do something positive."
Hugh who? Our incredible restaurant in Bristol, staffed by people living with dementia, is open for walk-ins. Call 07749883545 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for info. #RestaurantMakesMistakes @hughbon pic.twitter.com/dhXPPQOvCR
— Channel 4 (@Channel4) December 8, 2018
One famous face who has already dined at the eatery headed up by chef Josh Eggleton is Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville.
Having admitted to being initially a little cautious about the experience, the 55-year-old actor concluded he would not have been able to tell the staff were living with dementia if he hadn’t been told so.
"I have been in some fancy-pants restaurants in my time and the food here was genuinely delicious, and the camaraderie was brilliant," the Paddington actor told the Bristol Post.
Hugh, who praised the restaurant’s workers for their resilience - with many suffering knocks to their confidence after losing previous jobs - added: "At the start I felt like I was in an episode of First Dates but I cannot praise it highly enough.
Because people with dementia CAN! 👏 pic.twitter.com/vvGXhu6Nsf
— BBC Radio Bristol (@bbcrb) December 5, 2018
"I have had such a positive experience and I hope this idea really takes off for restaurants around the country, to take away the stigma."
The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes is expected to air on Channel 4 in the spring.
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