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Dementia Challenge: York aspiring to be one of the UK’s dementia-friendly cities.
A new report published today outlines how York and other cities can become truly dementia-friendly communities. It follows the launch earlier this year of the Prime Minister's Dementia Challenge.
The York Dementia Without Walls project looked at what is needed to make the city 'dementia friendly' - meaning a good place to live for people with dementia and their carers. The practical ideas in the report were shaped by local people affected by dementia.
The most difficult things for people with dementia are everyday activities that most take for granted, such as withdrawing money at the bank, paying bills, shopping and using public transport.
Trying to carry on daily life as before becomes much harder. People start to feel disconnected from their old groups, friends, activities and places, and slowly ‘give up’ because they worry about the reaction of strangers and encounter too many difficulties.
The research looked at four areas where real change is achievable:
Place: making York as easy as possible to move around and enjoy, with uncluttered and clear signage, and making public transport and facilities comfortable, easy to use and accessible. The report also highlights the many assets which York already has – in terms of its leisure, cultural and spiritual resources – which it can enable and encourage people with dementia to enjoy.
People: training for staff who provide key services in the wider community, such as in banks, libraries and shops, will improve customer service and understanding of their needs, and remove stigma.
Resources: using a symbol to denote dementia-friendly services and venues (theatres, cinemas, cafes); supporting businesses to become dementia-friendly and recognising such credentials; considering the needs of people with dementia when developing services (and not just health and care services).
Networks: encouraging people with dementia and carers to network and share experience; creating a York Dementia Action Alliance where partners can commit to action within their own organisations and support this movement; building a sense of corporate responsibility across all sectors. City of York Council (CYC) has committed to make sure that all the council’s services become dementia-friendly.
Philly Hare, Programme Manager for An Ageing Society at JRF, said: "We need to recognise that what is good for people with dementia is good for everybody. Most people want to try to carry on as normally as possible, for as long as possible, and they will persevere so long as they do not have to overcome additional obstacles or burdens.
"This project has demonstrated how important it is that we all challenge the attitudes, understanding and behaviours around dementia which reinforce stigma, isolation and exclusion. Raising awareness at all levels and in all sectors will help those who provide everyday services understand better what people with dementia need."
John Kennedy, Director of Care Services at the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT), added: "This is an important time for York to become a dementia-friendly place. Despite the tough economic climate, there are a number of opportunities we must seize to achieve this goal. Many are simple changes that can help with everyday tasks – yet they can make the biggest difference in helping those with dementia lead a rich and fulfilling life.
"York has many positives that help achieve this, yet a lot more can be done by pulling resources and services together. Now it requires city leaders – and all of us who live and work in York - to ensure that the positive things become embedded in normal York life, and that more negative experiences are eradicated in the future."
Councillor Tracey Simpson-Laing, Cabinet member for Health, Housing and Adult Social Services at CYC, said: "Communities which are dementia-friendly have more opportunity to support people in the early stages of dementia, maintaining and boosting their confidence and ability to manage everyday living. So this is a really important time for York to become a dementia-friendly place."