20 ways we can adapt to be more dementia-friendly

17th Jan 2014

There will soon be a million people with dementia in the UK. JRF's new case studies illustrate how we can adapt to a dramatically changing population.

In the UK, there will soon be a million of us with dementia. Today, we publish a set of case studies illustrating how we can adapt to a dramatically changing population.

Dementia-friendly communities are all about enabling those of us who have dementia to continue as active and confident members of our communities. Faced with a lack of support or understanding, many of us give up the things we love to do out of anxiety, fear or lack of confidence… and we slowly withdraw behind our own four walls.

Even visiting the GP can be a source of great anxiety, as Agnes Houston explains:

“The night before, I do not sleep. On the morning I feel afraid – jittery, a fear of being foolish and taking up time. I put my suit on to make me feel confident; I check my bag over and over and set off feeling determined but anxious. I try to look and feel in control. I even have a speech prepared for when I get to reception, which I try to deliver before one of the questions I dread is fired at me. Sometimes, possibly most times, I would rather remain sick and put up with that than be subjected to the visit.”

Soon, there will be a million of us in the UK who have dementia. Yet we all have so much to offer – as citizens, partners, parents or grand-parents, friends or colleagues, artists, musicians, volunteers… If we all hide away, what a huge and unnecessary loss – for us, for our families, for our communities and for society as a whole!

Five years ago the concept of the dementia-friendly community was almost unheard of. Projects in parts of Yorkshire – such as York and Bradford – were in the vanguard, and things started to move more quickly when the Prime Minister launched his Challenge in March 2012. There are now over 50 communities across the UK on the way to becoming dementia-friendly.

Today we launch our new collection of case studies, which brings together 20 simple examples of grassroots dementia-friendly work that is transforming communities across Yorkshire – from Northallerton, York, Hull and East Yorkshire, Rothwell and Leeds to Bradford, Shipley, Keighley, Doncaster, Sheffield and beyond.

These projects are taking place in churches, mosques and gurdwaras, in shops, legal services and cafes, and in public services such as transport, museums, hospitals, trading standards, schools, libraries, and sports centres. Behind most of this work are local ‘champions’ – extraordinary people in ordinary jobs who have seized the initiative and are leading change. Many have already achieved wider impact across their own organisations or sectors at regional, or even national, levels.

I hope we can all draw inspiration from these case studies, and each play our role in making our own community or organisation a welcoming and supportive place for people with dementia. There is a growing bank of useful resources to help you get started.

As Fiona Andrews from British Transport Police York says: “It’s not difficult. I work part-time, have no budget, no influence, can’t make policy or assign staff. But people want to do it. You’ll be supported more than you think.”