Why do we need Dementia Friendly Communities?

Up to 180,000 people with dementia feel trapped in their own homes. That’s according to research published by the Alzheimer’s Society ‘Building dementia friendly communities: A priority for everyone.’

Less than half those surveyed thought their area was geared up to help them live well with dementia – and less than half felt a part of the community. Some people said that they had to give up activities most of us would take for granted – like getting out of the house, shopping, exercise and using transport.

Why is this?

The outside world can often seem a hostile, difficult place to find your way around if you have dementia. Town centres may be poorly signposted. You need to remember your PIN number to shop with a credit card. Finding your way around on public transport may not be easy.

Going into hospital after a fall or if you’re taken ill can be particularly tough if you have dementia. You may have been able to function reasonably well in the home you know and are used to – but hospital can be a new and strange environment to get used to. By the time you return home your ability to live independently may have been severely undermined.

In turn, these problems navigating around the outside world can lead to psychological barriers – like a lack of confidence, being worried about becoming confused or worried about getting lost, or not wanting to be a burden to others.

Ten priorities for Dementia Friendly Communities

That’s why The Alzheimer’s Society recommends focusing on ten key areas:

  • Involve people with dementia.
  • Challenge stigma and build understanding
  • Ensure community activities are accessible
  • Acknowledge the potential of people with dementia
  • Ensure an early diagnosis – and post diagnostic support
  • Provide practical support to enable engagement in community life – like a befriending service
  • Facilitate community based solutions – in whatever care setting people with dementia are living in
  • Ensure consistent and reliable travel options
  • Make sure the physical environment is easy to navigate for people with dementia
  • Respectful and responsive businesses and services – e.g. through awareness raising and training for staff

The Benefits of Dementia Friendly Communities

The benefits are clear for people with dementia – but two other groups of people benefit too. First are family carers, as it makes it easier to care for loved ones with dementia – reducing their stress, fatigue and risk of illness.

However, governments and all of us paying taxes potentially benefit too. That’s because dementia friendly communities can help people with dementia carry on living at home longer – and supporting people to continue living at home costs less than looking after people in care homes or in hospital.

Examples of Dementia Friendly Communities

A range of towns and cities now have groups committed to make their communities more dementia friendly. Examples include: Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Liverpool, Wakefield, Plymouth, Wolverhampton, York, Wokingham, Torbay, Salford, Falmouth, Thurrock, Crawley, Nottingham and Lincoln.

Other initiatives to support dementia friendly communities include:Dementia FriendsThe Dementia Action Alliance and The Design Council Living Well with Dementia Awards.

A range of organisations and services are also working to make their communities more dementia friendly. The Alzheimer’s Society gives examples of a museum, a fire service, churches and bus companies.

Dementia and Imagination – Recognising the potential of people with dementia and their communities

On this project website you can find more about what we’re doing to help people with dementia and their communities realise more of their potential.

This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, as part of its Health and Wellbeing Connected Communities programme.

Living with dementia in the community

Understanding the impact of art  

Dementia and Imagination commissioned a short film produced by SSP Media - to share with a wider audience a sense of the art groups that were conducted for the research. The film focused on the art groups run in community venues and the experience of one of the art group members.

Dementia Friendly Communities - Further Reading

The Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly Communities Programme

Dementia Action Alliance – Over 900 organisations working together to improve the quality of life for people with dementia

Dementia Friendly Communities Toolkit - from Innovations in Dementia

Dementia Friends - a government funded Alzheimer’s Society project.

Designing services and environments for people with dementia - Dementia Services Development Centre

Dementia without Walls  - a Joseph Rowntree Foundation initiative

Living well with Dementia Design Challenge - The Design Council