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Reality Show Follows Opening of Restaurant Staffed by People With Dementia

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A new reality show is out to prove people diagnosed with dementia before retirement age can still contribute to the workforce and may even gain some confidence along the way.

“The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes” premiered Wednesday on Channel Four in the U.K., and in the coming episodes, the show will focus on a group of 14 people with dementia, along with restauranteur Josh Eggleton and dementia expert Zoe Wyrko, as they open a restaurant in Bristol, England.

The 14 participants range in age from 23 to 67 and have been diagnosed with conditions that cause dementia, like Pick’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and Parkinson’s disease. (In the case of the 23-year-old, he has tested positive for the gene that causes Pick’s disease and is participating in the project to understand what his future holds.) They all had careers before their diagnoses, so the show’s producers hope the project sheds light on the fact a dementia diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean you can no longer work.

“A dementia diagnosis doesn’t, and shouldn’t mean the end of a career,” Channel Four executive Sarah Lazenby said in a statement. “This poignant and timely project aims to open the eyes of employers to the importance of keeping those who live with dementia in work by boosting their confidence and independence.”

In the first episode, the 14 participants were trained on serving and cooking food, taking orders and keeping the restaurant running smoothly. Wyrko demonstrated techniques for adapting the workplace for people with dementia, for example by putting photos of the staff on their lockers to help them know which one is theirs.

Over the course of the four-week experiment, celebrity diners like Hugh Bonneville of “Downton Abbey” will stop by for a meal.

The concept of “The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes” was inspired by a similar restaurant that operated for three days in Tokyo in 2017. Called The Restaurant of Order Mistakes, the pop-up employed six waitresses with dementia.

Dementia is an umbrella term that describes symptoms like a decline in memory and thinking skills that affect a person’s ability to do everyday activities. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease (60 to 80% of cases).

Most dementias have no treatment or cure, though some drugs can help treat symptoms temporarily. The World Health Organization estimates 50 million people around the world have dementia, and that number is expected to grow to 82 million in 2030 and 152 million in 2050.

By the end of the first episode, many of the staff members started to get the hang of their jobs and appreciated the opportunity to work.

“We need to feel valued,” a staff member named Peter said. “Because we’re not at the end of our lives, there’s so much stuff we can do.”

“The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Channel Four.

Originally published: June 13, 2019
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