Principles of a dementia friendly community

A dementia friendly community can be defined as: a place or culture in which people with dementia and their carers are empowered, supported and included in society, understand their rights and recognise their full potential.

Diagram courtesy of Alzheimer's Australia

The cornerstones of a dementia friendly community

In addressing the twin objectives of reducing stigma and increasing understanding of dementia and empowering people with dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease International suggests that the four essential elements needed to support a dementia friendly community are people, communities, organisations and partnerships.

People

Involvement of people living with dementia

Dementia friendly communities should be shaped around information about the social and economic impacts of dementia, the needs and opinions of people living with dementia, together with input from carers. Only by ensuring that initiatives are inclusive of people living with dementia at all stages of development, will we succeed in giving them the sense of respect, dignity and purpose they seek.

Communities

The social environment

There is a need to tackle the stigma and social isolation associated with dementia through strategies to engage and include people with dementia in community activities. The availability of accessible community activities that are appropriate to the needs of people living with dementia, along with suitable transport options, are important for a community to become dementia friendly. The engagement of people living with dementia in existing community activities rather than only specialised activities is also important. Providing people with dementia the opportunity to remain in their homes and within their communities should be a guiding principle.

These are the opportunities we all have a right to expect: paid or unpaid activities, social opportunities though sporting activities such as golf and bowls, meeting with friends, participation in community activities such as choirs and walking clubs, access to retail, banking and other services.

The physical environment

A physical environment that supports the needs of people living with dementia is critical. It needs to be accessible and easy to navigate. Pathways, signage and lighting all need special consideration.

Organisations

Dementia friendly organisations

For people living with dementia to remain engaged within their communities, businesses and organisations need to demonstrate awareness, respect and responsiveness. Encouraging organisations to establish dementia friendly approaches and implement strategies that help people with dementia will contribute to a dementia friendly society.

Access to appropriate health care

A timely diagnosis of dementia and early treatment is a critical component of a dementia friendly community. Delivering dementia friendly services that respond to the unique needs of people with dementia at the right place at the right time.

Partnerships

The establishment of dementia friendly communities as a social action initiative needs cross-sectoral support and collective action to effect change. It is no one organisation’s sole responsibility to effect change of this scale, therefore the collective commitment to this cause and working in collaboration and partnership is critical. The strengths and focus of organisations within a community need to be identified and built into the plan for establishing a dementia friendly society.

More information about the principles of a dementia friendly community can be found in our publication Dementia friendly communities: key principles.