Building a dementia-friendly world: update from the 32nd International Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International

Kathryn Lord is a Research Fellow at the School of Dementia studies and is currently funded as part of our programme of work to improve transitions in dementia care.

She has experience of dementia research in a variety of settings including care home and hospital research.  She has published on a range of topics from the relationship between pain and behaviour for people with dementia to decision making about future place of care.

Kathryn tells us about her recent visit to the 32nd International Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International…

The Alzheimer’s Society’s 2013 report ‘Building dementia-friendly communities: A priority for everyone’ showed that 47% of people living with dementia in the United Kingdom (UK) did not feel a part of the community. As a response to the voices and experiences of people affected by dementia, the Alzheimer’s Society’s began the first UK Dementia Friends programme, an initiative aimed at changing the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about dementia. By either attending a face-to-face session or watching an online video, becoming a Dementia Friend is about learning more about dementia and the ways you can help. The Alzheimer’s Society definition of dementia-friendly is ‘a city, town or village where people with dementia are understood, respected, and supported to contribute to community life’. In the last five years over two million people have signed up to be Dementia Friends and over 225 dementia-friendly communities have been created across England and Wales.

The 32nd International Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International


On Wednesday 26th April 2017, as part of the 32nd International Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) in Kyoto, Japan, the Alzheimer’s Society and the World Health Organisation Kobe Centre co-hosted the ‘Building a Dementia-Friendly World’ symposium. We heard from colleagues in Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Australia, Indonesia, the UK and Japan about local dementia-friendly initiatives to share experiences and lessons learnt. The symposium was attended by over 350 participants from at least 33 countries and was also an opportunity to inform the development of a WHO dementia-friendly toolkit.

From the Netherlands we heard about the role large companies and organisations have had in creating a dementia-friendly community, training staff members to recognise and help customers with dementia in a friendly and appropriate way. Involvement of people living with dementia right from the planning stages of a project was a strength where it had happened and a missed opportunity where it had not. A common theme from all countries was the importance of support from local and central government to recognise the importance of these initiatives and encourage their adoption. Technology has been used in Jakarta to enable a community to locate and report missing people who may have dementia and connect them with appropriate services and their families. Additionally, in Japan working with younger generations has proved a worthwhile and successful strategy.

So what does this mean for research?

It is clear from the symposium that there is some fantastic work happening across the world in order to raise awareness of dementia and create dementia-friendly communities. Discussions within and outside of the symposium focused on measuring the impact of these initiatives on not only people affected by dementia but any impact on people’s health and their use of health services. In a financially stretched system such as the NHS, being able to prove the cost impact of these initiatives may be a significant driver in increasing  the funding and uptake of future initiatives. As researchers we need to work with local communities and organisations to consider innovative ways to do this.

Links and resources

You can view a recording of the ADI symposium here and the Alzheimer’s Society have created a case study booklet available here

Kathryn Lord