The concept of dementia friendliness has gained global prominence among consumers, policy makers and researchers over the past decade.
These groups have demonstrated innovation in the many iterations of dementia friendly initiatives and communities across the world, from dementia friendly cafés in Europe and South America, to dementia friendly malls, businesses, cinemas and banks all over Asia and Europe, and even dementia friendly regions in Latin America.
At one level the concept of dementia friendly is simple – to work for the common goal of a better life for people with dementia and their families. But it is much more than this. The framework of dementia friendly has the power to change the way we think about living with dementia. It extends to areas such as language, improvements in social support, health and dementia services, and the physical environment.
The concept has two different, but complementary, objectives: Firstly, to reduce stigma and promote awareness (i.e. the lived experience); and secondly, to empower people living with dementia to take decisions about their own lives (i.e. the rights approach).
On this page, we set out the principles and the resources available to guide the development of dementia friendly communities and showcase examples of dementia friendly initiatives around the world.
“The importance of the concept of dementia friendly communities fits with the needs of our human rights and disability rights to be recognised. In the same way as any other person with a disability, we should be supported to remain independent in our communities for as long as possible.” Kate Swaffer, Dementia Alliance International
ADI has produced twin publications on the key principles and examples of dementia friendly initiatives around the world, including campaigns and projects in over 40 countries.
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.
ADI suggests that the four essential elements needed to support a dementia friendly community are:
- People – people living with dementia must be included and centred.
- Communities – the physical and social environment must be appropriate to the needs of people living with dementia.
- Organisations – businesses and organisations must develop dementia friendly approaches and strategies, in particular in healthcare settings.
- Partnerships – cross-sectoral support and collective action are crucial to effect change.
The ‘Dementia friends’ initiative was started in Japan, and aims to transform the way people think, act and talk about dementia.
In 2004, Japan’s government announced the change of the word for ‘dementia’ from ‘Chiho’ which carried negative connotations to ‘Ninchi-sho’, meaning cognitive disorder. With this change, the country’s government launched a nationwide campaign, ‘10-Year Plan to Understand Dementia and Build Community Networks’, which stimulated the creation of various local activities centred around Dementia Friendly Communities. These included the Nationwide Caravan to train Ninchisho Supporters programme, an ambitious initiative to raise awareness of dementia and train various groups and individuals, in their personal or professional capacities, to best support people with dementia and carers to live well in their community.
Another crucial initiative is the Ninchisho Supporters training – a specialised 90-minute seminar for the public held at schools and offices and community settings across the country. The seminar covers the following key areas: recognition of the symptoms of dementia, diagnosis and treatment, the role of each health care professional, prevention, attitudes towards people with dementia, and understanding of the caregiver experience.
During the seminar, attendees learn about the disease itself, how it affects the lives of those living with dementia and what they should know in order to effectively support people with dementia. By the end of the programme, attendees are expected to have a good understanding of dementia and to become supporters and advocates for those living with dementia in their everyday lives. Those who attend the seminars become Ninchisho Supporters and receive an Orange Ring bracelet.
The Ninchisho Supporter concept was a key focus of research for Alzheimer’s Society (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) during the development of their Dementia Friends programme, launched in 2013. Dementia Friends, which shares many of the elements of Japan’s campaign, aimed to provide basic information about dementia, common misconceptions and a reminder that there is so much more to a person than the dementia. Individuals become a Dementia Friend by attending a face-to-face Information Session or watching an online video and registering for an information pack.
Inspired by the models in Japan and the UK, there are now 67 Dementia Friends programmes launched or in development in 56 countries and almost 19 million Dementia Friends worldwide (11 million of those in Japan).
Although the Global Dementia Friends Programme developed by the UK Alzheimer’s Society is no longer being supported, we are confident national programmes will continue to develop and strengthen.