IT WAS celebrations all round at Johnstone's Town Hall after several OAPs 'graduated' from a French class. 

Still Here, a social session run by Johnstone Dementia Friendly Community Group aims to help give people who suffer from or have early signs of dementia a support network and keep active.

The group was founded by Karen McShane and the sessions are based in Johnstone Town Hall every Wednesday from 1.30pm to 3.30pm.

Recently, over a 10-week period, the Johnstone class was treated to a French learning exercise by experts at Lingo Flamingo who specialise in language classes for people with dementia.

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Karen, who was a former Alzheimer's Scotland worker before starting the initiative five years ago, says she is looking to help those who are still living at home independently, or with carers, get the support they need.

She said: "The aim of the class is to really remind them of what they already knew.

"But another purpose of the class was to create a social group for those who came and for the carers too.

"We tend to advise that people who have been diagnosed by doctors to be accompanied by a carer.

"The support for those who suffer from dementia is quite small, so I am glad I could do something for them like this.

"It is the people who come along that make the classes as without them there would be no class.

"Having a diagnosis does not mean it has to be all doom and gloom for them or their carers and that is the message we need to get across."

The Gazette:

Classes consisted of mini-games and songs all in French, with one participant remembering more numbers in the language than he first thought.

The final class saw a mini-graduation for those that attended with certificates having been made up to present to everyone for completing the class. 

Local councillors Andy Steel and Jacqueline Cameron attended the event along with Renfrewshire's Lord Provost, Lorraine Cameron.

Carolyn McInnes from Lingo Flamingo admitted that it was the first time she had taken a group in a community setting, compared to being in care homes. 

However, the language expert said that it worked well and that everyone who came along was "amazing" and "so keen" to get involved.

She added: "I am so sad to be stopping it as I had a rare time here.

"The purpose of the class was not to teach people a language in the 10 weeks.

"It was all about getting them to bring back what they knew already and things that they might vaguely remember. 

"It is lovely when you see that light bulb moment on someone when it comes back to them."

Provost Lorraine Cameron added: "It was a real pleasure to come along to see what the ‘mature’ students have been learning.

"They have worked so hard to get their certificates over 10 weeks, and some have a natural flair for the French language – even remembering things they learned at school.

"We had a sing-along and I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon than with Renfrewshire citizens in fine voice and lots of laughter. 

"Well done to all of them and to their music and language tutors – not forgetting Karen McShane who made it all happen."