THE Riding for the Disabled Association's Unicorn Centre at Hemlington is celebrating a unique achievement: becoming the first riding establishment and RDA Centre in the country to become officially 'Working to become Dementia Friendly'.

Following the National Dementia Strategy first set up by the Government, towns and communities have been encouraged to train to be Dementia Friendly to support over 850 thousand people currently thought to be living with dementia in the UK.

Local Dementia Friendly Champion Lesley Tart provided awareness training accredited by the Alzeheimers Society for Unicorn Centre staff and Trustees. She explained at the training sessions that over 1 in 14 people over 65 years old will develop the disease and that meaningful activity can be particularly helpful. She suggested strategies staff could use at the Centre to enable it to become more dementia friendly.

The Centre was presented with its accreditation certificate by Brian Rowcroft, Project Lead Dementia Friendly Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland.

Brian said, "I'm delighted to announce the Unicorn Centre has joined the Dementia Friendly Communities Initiative. The Unicorn Centre realises that becoming Dementia Friendly is a very important part of their service commitment to the community. Their application was outstanding and very well received by the panel. I'm very pleased they have achieved this award and their plans for the future are innovative and far-reaching."

Centre Manager Claire Pitt added, "We're very proud to receive this award, but it is the start of our journey as we continue to work at being a Dementia Friendly charity and encouraging other RDA groups to follow our example. The Dementia Friendly training has been inspirational and thought-provoking, so it will be rolled out to all our volunteers and supporters. And in the spring we'll be offering Dementia Friendly 'taster sessions' of riding and tactile grooming sessions for persons with dementia.

For further information on the Centre's Dementia Friendly taster sessions contact Centre Manager Claire Pitt on 01642 576222.