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Constructing a dementia-friendly society

Posted: 1st February 2019

Kirstie Kalonji

Programme Partnerships Officer

Alzheimer's Society

Hello Construction sector!

My name is Kirstie, I am the Programme Partnerships Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, and I’d like you to meet Betty.

Betty has dementia. In order for her to live well, she needs to be able to keep doing the things she loves for as long as possible. Such as:

  • Staying independent in her home - however, her dementia affects her vision, so she often struggles to identify her front door, as it is too similar to the others on her street.
  • Going to shops in her high street - however, last time she visited she wanted to have a rest, and couldn’t recognise the seating areas, as they were designed in funky, unconventional shapes.
  • Attending her granddaughters dance performances at university - however, last time she was there with her husband, there was no unisex toilet for him to assist her without causing embarrassment.
  • Visiting hospital for check-ups - however, last time the lack of contrasting colours in the reception area made it difficult for her locate the main welcome desk.
  • Going for a walk in her local park - however, last time she went, she got slightly lost as she could not identify the way out due to dim lighting.
  • Taking a flight to visit her son in Jersey - however, last time she was at the airport, the shiny floors looked like wet puddles to her, and she got confused as to how to get around them.

To conclude, Betty may be forced to stop doing the things she enjoys as her dementia progresses, because she is worried about getting the support she needs from her built environment. This will have a devastating impact on her health and wellbeing.

Why does construction matter?

The Construction industry is involved in the design and build of key areas, such as housing, commercial, education, healthcare, public spaces and transport, all of which will have a direct affect on people living with dementia. Furthermore, many construction companies are involved in working to improve the lives of local residents and tourists. We therefore expect the industry to consider vulnerable groups, such as people living with dementia.

How can you help?

  1. Ensure there is a basic knowledge and understanding of dementia throughout your business by rolling out Dementia Friends to all of your team members. This is an easy and affective awareness raising initiative which can be as simple as watching a 10 minute video.
  2. Build on this foundation, by following the guidelines in our business guide.

Examples of next steps specifically for the construction industry:

  • Involve citizens/people living with dementia at design stage
  • Build safe, non-clinical, dementia and age-friendly environments
  • Engage retailers, supply chains and designers with dementia-friendly checklists
  • Coproduce with policy planners, designers, commissioners, housing and health care professionals

Over 1 million people in the UK are set to have dementia by 2021, and over two thirds of these individuals will be living in the community. It is vital that the construction sector is working to ensure our communities are built in a dementia-friendly way, so that people living with dementia can continue to live well.

Contributor: Kirstie Kalonji is Programme Partnerships Officer at the Alzheimer's Society