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What is a dementia-friendly community?

What is a dementia-friendly community?

Dementia-friendly communities help people with dementia feel included and supported in the places they work, live and play. Dementia-friendly communities began in Japan as a way to support the increasing numbers of people living with dementia as a result of an aging population. From there, the initiative spread to the United Kingdom.

A dementia-friendly community focuses on stigma reduction and the inclusion of people with dementia. People are educated about dementia and know that a person with dementia may sometimes experience the world differently. In a dementia-friendly community, people living with dementia feel supported by their community members whether they are  at post offices, retail outlets, using transportation or enjoying hobbies out in the community.

The term “community” can mean a location like a neighborhood or city, but can also include groups of people with shared interests or features, such as professional groups, religious organizations or businesses. This means that cities can become Dementia-Friendly Communities, as can your book club, a faith group or your business, a local coffee shop or grocery store.

Characteristics of a dementia-friendly community

Dementia-friendly communities are defined by both their social and physical characteristics. These attributes can help support people with dementia by reducing anxiety, stigma or frustration.

What does a dementia-friendly social environment look like?

Community members who are dementia friendly recognize that:

  • A person with dementia is more than their diagnosis.
  • Dementia can affect a person’s cognition, behaviour, emotions and physical capabilities.
  • Everyone has a role to play in recognizing people with dementia as a part of their community and supporting their independence, value and inclusion.

What can your community do?

  • Request dementia education to help community members understand dementia and learn how to offer appropriate assistance.
  • Include people with dementia in community or organizational programming.
  • Encourage city staff – whether at libraries or community centers, or parking and by-law officers, police and firefighters – to be educated about dementia and be able to communicate effectively with a person with dementia.
  • Work with others in the community, such as shopkeepers, bank tellers and bus drivers, to receive dementia education specific to their job.

What about a dementia-friendly physical environment?

A physical environment that is welcoming to people with dementia includes:

  • Clear and legible signage placed at eye level.
  • Flat, wide and unobstructed sidewalks.
  • Clearly marked accessible washrooms in public spaces.
  • Landmarks, distinctive structures, open spaces and places of activity and rest.

Last Updated: 10/07/15
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