We are particularly interested in researching how people with perceptual difficulties interact with their environment, so we welcomed the opportunity to participate in Memory-Friendly Neighbourhoods, a knowledge exchange programme between the University of Edinburgh, the University of Stirling and partner organisations, which explored how local communities can support people with dementia.
There are approximately 90,000 people living with dementia in Scotland. As the population ages, this will increase and is expected to double over the next 25 years. The majority, 63.5%, of people with dementia live at in their own home. While the concept of ‘dementia-friendly communities’ is steadily gaining acceptance, many people with dementia are still cut off from places, services and activities in their local neighbourhood.
Over the course of two events, we exchanged ideas and best practice with experts from around the world, demonstrated more inclusive ways of sharing experiences with people with dementia, and developed a network of people with related expertise which continues to thrive online.
One particularly successful aspect of the work was an on-site exercise in the town of Kirkintilloch near Glasgow. With the support of the local council, we walked around the town centre with a group of people affected by dementia and their carers, exploring how memory impacts on route-finding, and mapping aspects of the environment which either challenged them or made life easier.