Kate Swaffer urges that research should not only focus on cure but also should examine care

This was my ‘pledge’ for #globaldementia

It reflects Kate Swaffer talking about people with dementia and caregivers being ‘equal partners’. I couldn’t agree more.

shib pledge

This is my enhanced version of ‘no decision about us without us’. It’s my way of saying “do not inadvertently create division” by making people with dementia seem like targets of a ‘does he take sugar?’ attitude. I feel personally that the ‘dementia friendly communities’ policy globally, as outlined here by the Alzheimer’s Disease International, is working well, away from the tokenistic patronising crap many of us have warned against.

And good on for @KateSwaffer, Chair of the Dementia Alliance International, for not only getting a seat at the table, but also making herself comfy at it and sending rhetorical nuclear missiles at the establishment.

Time for caption

In case you missed it you can watch it here. Kate spoke just after Jeremy Hunt in the session on Monday morning in Geneva, 16 March 2015.

Kate believes that “we must all include this in her goal”, “to think about how can empower people to live better with dementia”. But Kate was aghast that there had been no mention of rehabilitation thus far in the proceedings.

live well

Kate welcomed the significance of the appointment of Hillary Doxford onto the World Dementia Council. Hillary herself lives with young onset dementia. I myself campaigned for a person with dementia to be included as a member of the Council, but it was the Dementia Alliance International who spearheaded this.

Kate explained the need for better care, services and research into living better with dementia.

These are the three aims which Kate promoted.

three key issues

Kate called the ‘prescribed disengagement‘ which accompanied the disclosure of her diagnosis ‘unethical’. She emphasised, “we don’t have a cure yet. we all know that. we are not that much closer to a cure.”

In the article for Dementia journal, Kate describes it powerfully thus:-

“Following a diagnosis of dementia, most health care professionals, including neurologists, geriatricians, physicians, general practitioners, and dementia service providers prescribe giving up a pre-diagnosis life and put all the planning in place for the demise of the person newly diagnosed with dementia such as wills, powers of guardianship and other end of life issues. I was told ‘to give up work, give up study, and to go home and live for the time I had left’. By 2009, I had termed this Prescribed Dis-engagementTM, and I ultimately chose to ignore it. One has to ask the question: Why is it that one day I was studying a tertiary degree, working full time, volunteering, raising a family and running a household with my husband, and the next day, told to give it all up, to give up life as I knew it, and start ‘living’ for the time I had left?

This Prescribed Dis-engagementTM sets up a chain reaction of defeat and fear, which negatively impacts a person’s ability to be positive, resilient and proactive.”

Dementia is the only disease or condition and the only terminal illness that I know of where patients are told to go home and give up their pre-diagnosis lives, rather than to ‘fight for their lives’.

The families and partners are also told they will have to give up work soon to become full time ‘carers’. Getting yourself acquainted with residential care is recommended. All of this advice is well-meaning, but based on a lack of education and misperceptions and myths about how people can live with dementia. This sets us up to live a life without hope or any sense of a future and destroys our sense of future well-being; it can mean the person with dementia behaves like a ‘victim’ or ‘sufferer’, and many times their care partner as a martyr.”

She emphasised, “We need psychosocial interventions, and research into them.”

“It’s very clear to me that I could’ve stayed at work, and paying taxes.”

Kate made reference to some of the groundbreaking research which is happening to look at improving quality of life.

“HTA Goal-oriented cognitive rehabilitation in early-stage Alzheimer’s disease: multi-centre single-blind randomised controlled trial (GREAT)” is a collaborative research trial with Prof. Linda Clare as the chief investigator.

Early intervention offers the possibility of helping people with early-stage dementia (PwD) and their carers to manage the impact of the disease on everyday life, and reducing or delaying the progression of disability. “Cognitive rehabilitation” involves identifying realistic and achievable goals reflecting areas of everyday activity where the PwD experiences difficulty due to changes in memory and other cognitive abilities, and wishes to see improvements. needs are addressed in the context where they arise.

One thing’s certain: Kate has played a blinder. In speaking so powerfully about the importance of wellbeing for individuals who’ve received a diagnosis of dementia, she has put a new set of cards on the table. Far from dismissing the effort for finding the cure, which she calls ‘the golden egg’, Kate has drawn attention to the 470 million or so people in the world living with dementia, and the crucial need for them to be involved in policy. Kate Swaffer undoubtedly has left a significant legacy in rights for individuals living with dementia which has been carefully now seeded in a number of jurisdictions.

Dementia Advisory Group

Dementia friendly communities: corporates not behaving badly, or clever marketing?


There is of course an element of both. “Dementia friendly communities” could be an example of corporates not behaving badly, to create a competitive advantage for themselves; or it could be quite nifty marketing.

Corporates not behaving badly, officially known as “corporate social responsibility” is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. CSR policy functions as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby a business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards, and international norms.  It’s in keeping with the idea of corporates like citizens just like the rest of us, like trade unions, for example, all co-existing “in the public good“.  CSR is a process with the aim to embrace responsibility for the company’s actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere who may also be considered as stakeholders. Given the talk of “pandemic” and “time bomb”, it’s not a huge surprise corporates will wish to be in on the action. Some were out in force last week at the #G8summit. So that’s the answer to the question posed by Vivienne Parry in the session with NIKE and BT: “What are they doing here”?

Companies the world over, whether they are involved in consumer sales, B2B, intermediaries, charities or NGOs, all recognise the importance of marketing. Marketing tends to be something which many people feel they can have a dabble at, but of course charities have highly skilled people doing it just like any other corporate. ‘Strategic marketing‘ has been defined by David Aaker as a process that can allow an organisation to concentrate its resources on the optimal opportunities with the goals of increasing sales and achieving a sustainable competitive advantage. Or surplus, if you’re in the third sector. Talk to any smaller charity going out of action, like Dementia Advocacy Network, and you’ll see cut-throat it can be.

The highly visible “dementia friendly communities” programme of the Alzheimer’s Society focuses on improving the inclusion and quality of life of people with dementia, as described here.  The Alzheimer’s Society’s five year strategy includes a key ambition to work with people affected by dementia and key partners to define and develop dementia friendly communities.  In these communities: people will be aware of and understand more about dementia; people with dementia and their carers will be encouraged to seek help and support; and people with dementia will feel included in their community, be more independent and have more choice and control over their lives. And it’s also great publicity for corporates which sign up. The Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia also includes an ambition to create communities that are working to help people live well with dementia, and which politician doesn’t seek to be re-elected?

However, the concept is actually not at all new.

The “York Dementia Without Walls project” from the Joseph  Rowntree Foundation looked into what’s needed to make York a good place to live for people with dementia and their carers. It’s argued fundamentally that dementia-friendly communities can better support people in the early stages of their illness, maintaining confidence and boosting their ability to manage everyday life. Working with people with dementia, the research team investigated how local resources can be harnessed to this end, provided there is enough awareness. It was great work.

They were not alone. The RSA also developed their “connected communities” project. Connected Communities is a research programme that explores ‘social network’ approaches to social and economic challenges and opportunities. They concentrated on understanding, mapping and mobilising ‘real world’ face to face networks of support and exchange between citizens, small informal groups, public sector and third sector agencies, and private sector businesses.

This RSA group perceived the answer was to be found in “networks” because networks have dynamic qualities through which behaviour, emotional states, conditions, and influence spread and cluster, often in quite specific ways.

The UK indeed is not alone.  There’s been a growing number of cities and communities worldwide are striving to better meet the needs of their older residents.

The WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities was established to foster the exchange of experience and mutual learning between cities and communities worldwide. Any city or community that is committed to creating inclusive and accessible urban environments to benefit their ageing populations is welcome to join.

And these initiatives have had great success, which is to be applauded. In October 2013, it was announced that a landmark guide for banks and insurers to help improve the everyday lives of people affected by dementia was being launched by Lloyds Banking Group and Alzheimer’s Society. The ‘Dementia-friendly financial services charter‘ was designed to help financial services organisations recognise, understand and respond to the needs of customers living with dementia and their carers. Financial abuse can be a massive source of worry for carers of people living with dementia, so it was wonderful Lloyds Bank participated in this innovation.

So why should corporates prefer to go with the Alzheimer’s Society? It is quite possible that this is due to the strength of the brand of that society.

A parallel can be seen in property law.

A landlord would obviously prefer to know that his tenant is solvent and reputable and consequently more likely to perform all leasehold covenants.

Property professionals often refer to covenant strength and try to determine whether a proposed tenant is a “good covenant”. For investors the covenant strength of the tenant is an extremely important factor. If a landlord has tenants with good covenant strength, the property will be more attractive to potential buyers and its value will be likely to go up.

The parallel is the power of the brand of a charity – its “pulling power”.

Businesses and charities put a lot of time into their outward reputation, in the hope of attracting more inward business. Whilst Google hits are not per se a sign of popularity and goodwill, because for example a Google ranking might depend on the number and quality of pages which link to that webpage, the ranking of a phrase can be a good indication of the power of a brand.

Here it is quite interesting that the Alzheimer’s Society puts up a good showing for a search of ‘dementia friendly communities’. A possible reason for the society’s success here is to find in the last entry of this extract: the powerful strategic alliance it has with the Department of Health, who will clearly want this project to succeed.

Google search

Despite various third sector and corporate entities competing with each other, there has been remarkably little scientific peer-reviewed published evidence on “dementia friendly communities”. Here for example is the output from the ‘Medline’ database encompassing a huge collection of medical journals. This search only returned two pieces, where the abstract was not even available. Many, therefore, will have agreed with Sir Mark Walport, the Chief Scientific Officer, to query publicly at #G8dementia what the precise evidence base for the “dementia friendly community” is currently.

Medline search

Notably, the prestigious Stirling group (DSDC) aired their concerns here:

““Dementia-friendly” has become part of the language of strategic planning in the public and third sectors, since the launch of the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia in England in 2012 included the creation of dementia-friendly communities as one of its three main objectives. However, its exact meaning is inconsistent.

Being “dementia-friendly” has also become an aspiration for specific organisations, for facilities and buildings and for services – sometimes as part of a wider commitment, sometimes stand-alone.

DSDC does not believe there is a single model of “dementia-friendly”, or any need for one.  But it does advocate for objective measures of what is being promoted as “dementia-friendly” to ensure it is not just a popular phrase used to cover shallow or cosmetic change. In terms of what we do ourselves, DSDC aims to help any group or community work out what can be achieved on a sustainable basis given available local resources.”

Piercy and Lane (2009) from the Warwick Business School really elegantly reviewed the relationship between corporate social responsibility and strategic marketing in their article, “Corporate social responsibility: impacts on strategic marketing and customer value” [The Marketing Review, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 335-360].

The initiative of Lloyds embracing “dementia friendly communities” can be at once understood through Piercy and Lane’s discussion of the notion of “ethical consumerism“”

“Commentators on branding suggest that ethical consumption is one of the most significant issues in modern markets. The conclusion is that ethical and environmental questions are being posed by growing numbers of consumers, but they are not always overly impressed by companies’ responses. It is also unclear how robust ethical consumerism will be in the face of other pressures – sales of organic foods fell nearly 20% in the UK in 2008, as consumers reverted to cheaper alternatives when economic conditions worsened. Nonetheless, the impact of “ethical consumerism” is large and of escalating significance.”

A particular banks, despite being in a relatively crowded market (and hence oligopolistic), particularly need to demonstrate why it’s better than the rest, and ethical consumerism has been particularly important for this in recent times, possibly in a way accelerated by the global financial crashes.

Also such initiatives are particularly attractive to investors, viz:

“There are growing signs that many corporate boards of directors are under shareholder pressure to adopt more acceptable environmental policies and keep a closer watch on environmental issues, reflecting investor concerns about global warming and shortages of natural resources. The attitude of investors toward CSR initiatives may be positive or negative. For example, it may be from an investor perspective the case for sustainability is essentially a business case – initiatives are not about “saving the planet”, but about cutting waste, reducing costs and becoming more efficient. In 2006, Google launched a strategy to switch to renewable energy – while this reflects the personal beliefs of the founders of the business, it is also true that Google is a massive user of electricity and renewable energy provides a way to cut costs. Nonetheless, when Google announced its renewable energy strategy, one leading New York stock analyst downgraded the company, despite clear indications that the initiative would cut costs – his view was that the company was no longer focusing on its real priorities.”

This criticism clearly would not apply to dementia charities, where inclusion of disabled members of society would be invariably an aim of any reasonable dementia charity. But the point holds: that the ‘market’ is sensitive to a company’s ethical credentials these days. For example, a dementia charity which solely concentrated on genomic ‘big data’ might not have as much competitive advantage with the general public. And the ‘dementia friendly community’ is an effective way of returning value to members of the general public, in the absence currently of disease-modifying drugs or cures for Alzheimer’s disease and the other two hundred causes (at least) of a dementia.

It is not of course accidental that Andrea Ponti from JP Morgan was there at #G8dementia. Corporates behaving well is big business. It would be easy to dismiss what they can bring to the table, that is somehow raise the profile of dementia. The tragedy of course would be if diversion of resources acted to the detriment of actual patient-centred care so desperately needed at the moment.

Dementia friendly communities: how creating shared value became so important in English policy

There is a strong sense from the National Dementia Strategy (2009) of the need for individuals living well with dementia to be part of a wider network which creates higher shared value. The establishment and maintenance of such networks will provide direct local peer support for people with dementia and their carers. It will also enable people with dementia and their carers to take an active role in the development and prioritisation of local services There is, however, a growing realisation that many settings are not in fact “dementia friendly”. In the Department of Health’s “Improving care for people with dementia”, it is described that a quarter of hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia. To improve health and care services for people with dementia, by March 2013 the current English policy is committed  asking every hospital in England to commit to becoming dementia-friendly. Indeed, the UK Government reported in “Improving care for people with dementia”, on the UK government website 25 March 2013 that ‘dementia friendly communities’ are a key priority.

It is argued that it will take time for communities to become truly dementia friendly. Groups in over 20 areas, that have now committed to working towards becoming dementia friendly villages, towns and cities. As we develop a process and criteria for developing dementia friendly communities we expect this number to grow. For example, at the time of writing, thirty new members have signed up to the Dementia Action Alliance (DAA), taking the number of bodies and organisations to over hundred.  Each organisation has produced an action plan on what they will do to become more dementia friendly. The DAA is a membership body committed to transforming the quality of life of people living with dementia in the UK and the millions of people who care for them.


People with dementia and carers have described seven outcomes that must be met to ensure that they live well with the condition (Dementia Action Alliance).

The history of this “declaration” is summarised thus:

“Working in partnership with the initial signatories, people with dementia and their family carers described seven outcomes they would like to see in their lives. They provide an ambitious and achievable vision of how people with dementia and their families are supported by society. All individuals and organisations, large and small, can play a role in making it a reality.”

The elements are:

  • I have personal choice and control or influence over decisions about me
  • I know that services are designed around me and my needs
  • I have support that helps me live my life
  • I have the knowledge and know-how to get what I need
  • I live in an enabling and supportive environment where I feel valued and understood

This work, alongside other research on quality of life for people affected by dementia, shows that many issues influence how well people live, from health and social care, to social relationships, engagement in activities, a sense of belonging and of being a valued part of family, community and civic life. Other work also highlights the importance of society and developing age-friendly environments.

Domestic and international context 

The RSA’s “Connected Communities” project describes itself as, “multi-faceted comprising several interrelated research projects, through which we aim to gain a better understanding of the conditions under which a new civic collectivism, or social productivity, may emerge – one that is organic, spontaneous, and bottom-up.”

The WHO “age friendly communities” or “age friendly cities” initiative is also very significant. In 2008, for the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population lived in cities. Urban populations will continue to grow in the future. It is estimated that around 3 out of every five people will live in an urban area by 2030.At the same time, as cities around the world are growing, their residents are growing older. The proportion of the global population aged 60 will double from 11% in 2006 to 22% by 2050. According to WHO, making cities and communities age-friendly is one of the most effective local policy approaches for responding to demographic ageing.

According to WHO:

The physical and social environments are key determinants of whether people can remain healthy, independent and autonomous long into their old age.

Older persons play a crucial role in their communities – they engage in paid or volunteering work, transmit experience and knowledge, and help their families with caring responsibilities. These contributions can only be ensured if they enjoy good health and if societies address their needs. The WHO Age-friendly Environments Programme is an international effort to address the environmental and social factors that contribute to active and healthy ageing. The Programme helps cities and communities become more supportive of older people by addressing their needs across eight dimensions: the built environment, transport, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication, and community support and health services.

This World Health Organisation initiative appears to provide an international network of good practice in these areas and opportunities to connect the growing number of places interested in dementia-friendly communities to this work. For example, it is argued that domestically here in Manchester, long-term involvement of older people in planning the development of the city at urban and neighbourhood levels has improved the physical and environmental access for older people, raising their confidence and empowering them to become involved in decision-making.

Social inclusion is becoming, of course, increasingly achievable through online social networks. Shirley Ayres (2013) argues in a ‘provocation paper’ for Nominet that social exclusion, loneliness, managing health and disabilities, and unemployment are big issues for society generally. The problems for older people can be exacerbated by ill health, significant life changes such as retirement and transitions – which may require moving to supported living – and the death of partners and close friends. Retaining a sense of worth and value, keeping connected to family and friends, and continuing to contribute to society are important considerations in addressing social inclusion.

What is a “dementia friendly community”?

The definition of the word ‘community’ itself is problematic and in this paper we have used it both thematically (e.g. ethnic or spiritual group, specific interest group, club or society) and geographically to reflect the various domains
of people’s lives. People with dementia in this project and in others that members of AESOP Consortium (an organisation that advises local health and social care systems on reform) have been involved with (Local Government Association, 2012) have described a dementia-friendly community as one that enables them to:

  • find their way around and feel safe in their locality/community/city;
  • access the local facilities that they are used to (such as banks, shops, cafés, cinemas and post offices, as well as health and social care services);
  • maintain their social networks so they feel they still belong in the community. 

Furthermore, a society or community that acts consciously to ensure that people with dementia (along with all its citizens) are respected, empowered, engaged and embraced into the whole is one that can claim to be, or is becoming, a dementia-friendly community. We have reflected that there are similar movements for communities currently to become generally more ‘age-friendly’, just as more recently they consciously became more ‘child-friendly’ and ‘wheelchair-friendly’. As mentioned in chapter 16, dementia comes within scope of the Equality Act [2010], and this therefore is an important legal consideration now. 

Communities that aspire to become dementia-friendly are likely also to be those that constantly strive to build social capital and community capacity for all their local populations of residents, workers and visitors and, in doing so, value the contribution that each makes. This may be summarised by the phrase ‘an assets-based approach’, that is, one that builds on what people can still do, as opposed to a ‘deficit-model’ that focuses on what people can no longer do and somehow ‘reduces’ them because they cannot contribute to society more fully. Appreciating the whole person – in line with Kitwood’s (1997) development of the notion of personhood – and their valuable individual contribution to the “citizenry” of a place, community or society is
an aim of this project and of the whole of Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s programme of work on dementia and society. Community development progresses this aim; civic engagement and increased social capital are its outputs. Mutual gain for everyone is the outcome.

In Europe, Bruges is leading the way in an expanding movement of towns and cities that are championing the dementia-friendly approach, which include Nantes in France and Ansbach in Germany. Bruges’ knotted red handkerchief logo signifying “dementievriendelijkBrugge” (“dementia-friendly Bruges”) is being taken up by other organisations and countries and they welcome others using the logo too, to increase its chances of becoming a universally recognisable emblem.

Where did the concept of “dementia friendly communities”come from?

Growing awareness of the demographic changes in the population as the proportion of older people and the prevalence of dementia increase has prompted research and policy development in both age-friendly and dementia-friendly communities. 
In 2011, the Department of Health convened a ‘Think Tank’ of experts, including people with dementia and family carers, to explore the concept of “dementia-capable communities”. In preparation it commissioned Innovations in Dementia to work with people with dementia to find out what makes a good community for people with dementia to live in and what can be done to make this happen (“Dementia Capable Communities” from “Innovations in Dementia”).

They found that the things that make the most difference are:

  • the physical environment;
  • local facilities;
  • support services;
  • social networks;
  • local groups.

People with dementia suggested that things could be made better by:

  • increasing people’s awareness of dementia;
  • having more local groups for people with dementia and their carers;
  • providing more information, and more accessible information, about local services and facilities;
  • making local facilities more accessible for people with dementia.

Why encourage ‘dementia friendly communities’?

1. The growing numbers of people with dementia

All statutory agencies should be familiar with the public health and demographic changes occurring over the next generation, including a doubling of the numbers of people with dementia over the next 30 years and a shrinking of the working population to support those in later life. By 2019, 38 percent of the population will be aged over 50, and by 2029 this will have risen to 40 percent (Audit Commission, 2008).

2. The economic arguments

In the U.K., the economic climate had
driven significant cuts in public sector spending that have impacted on commissioners’ abilities to fund services adequately or to invest in future service provision. It has also unfortunately coincided with the formation of different health commissioning arrangements; the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and the Health and Wellbeing Boards, both still in their transitional infancy, are too new to have had much impact yet. Arguably, the growing elderly population is a source of spending power that has been overlooked in the past in favour of younger people with apparently more cash to spend.

 3. The value of independence and interdependence

The people we met told us that the most distressing part of their illness is that, after a lifetime of autonomy and self-determination, they find themselves having to rely increasingly on others. Even when they recognise that they need help, they are sensitive to
the complexity of nuance and understanding which can be felt on both sides.

4. The wish to remain connected to communities

Highest on the list of difficulties for people with dementia are the everyday community activities that everyone else takes 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 more difficult and problematic for people. As a result they start to feel disconnected from their old groups, friends, activities and places.

 5. The interconnectedness of community life

Research and anecdotal reports of people’s personal accounts converge on the notion that receiving a diagnosis of dementia is a major life event. Fear and ignorance of dementia among family and friends, as well as the general population, may mean
that others respond negatively. Many report, in addition, reveal a necessity to make new friends, commonly from the dementia community, as they begin to lose friends and connections in their old walks of life.

 6. The need to create inclusive local communities

Older people are fellow citizens who should be able to participate in local communities and benefit from universal services to the same extent as other age groups. Scrutinising local mainstream and universal services through an age-proofing lens benefits not only older people but also many other groups – younger people, families with children, wheelchair users and other disabled groups (Audit Commission, 2008). Older people should have a stake in how universal services such as transport, parks and gardens, refuse collection and leisure services are planned and organised. Finally, through better use of space and the increased use of technology, more older people are able to participate more fully in society. The Independent featured in its reporting the impact of ageing on city life in the future, signalling the growth of environmental gerontology.


Why involve individuals with dementia in the design of ‘dementia friendly communities’?

The Local Government Association and ‘Innovations in dementia’ have explained why it is so essential to listen to the views of those individuals with dementia.

The idea of making our communities better places to live for people with dementia is something which engages the enthusiasm and interest of all sorts of people. Traders, leisure companies, transport providers, planners, service providers, health and social care organisations, charities are all potentially affected; all have a role to play in forming a vision about what a dementia-friendly community should look like.

The most important stakeholders in this process of course are people with dementia, and those who care for and support them.

“Nothing about us without us” is a slogan which carries great resonance for disability rights campaigners – and is one which is increasingly being articulated by people with dementia as well. The voices of people with dementia and their carers should be at the start and the heart of the process of creating dementia-friendly communities.


What do individuals with dementia appear to want from ‘dementia friendly communities’?

The Local Government Association and ‘Innovations in dementia’ have explained that it is important to listen to the expectations of individuals with dementia in formulating a policy on dementia-friendly communities.

Their findings are shown below.

“People told us about the things which make a difference in a dementia-capable community:

  • the physical environment;
  • local facilities;
  • support services;
  • social networks;
  • local groups.

“People told us that they kept in touch with their local communities”:

  • through local groups;
  • through the use of local facilities;
  • through walking;
  • through the use of support services.

“People told us they had stopped doing some things in their community because: their dementia had progressed and they were worried about their ability to cope they were concerned that people didn’t understand or know about dementia.”

“People told us that they would like to be able to:

  • pursue hobbies and interests;
  • simply go out more;
  • make more use of local facilities;
  • help others in their community by volunteering.”

“People told us that one-to-one informal support was the key to helping them do these things. 
People told us that a community could become more ‘dementia-capable’ by:

  • increasing its awareness of dementia;
  • supporting local groups for people with dementia and carers’
  • providing more information, and more accessible information about local services and facilities;
  • thinking about how local mainstream services and facilities can be made more accessible for people with dementia.”

The Four Cornerstones Model

Crampton, Dean, and Eley (and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation) in a report on building a dementia-friendly community in York present an elegant ‘four cornerstone’ model.


Their analysis of previous and parallel work, supported by our findings in York, led us to propose a model for realising a dementia-friendly community. With the voices of people at the heart of the process, it is argued that communities need to consider four ‘cornerstones’ to test the extent of their dementia friendliness. These are:

Place – how do the physical environment, housing, neighbourhood and transport support people with dementia?

People – how do carers, families, friends, neighbours, health and social care professionals (especially GPs) and the wider community respond to and support people with dementia?

Resources – are there sufficient services and facilities for people with dementia and are these appropriate to their needs and supportive of their capabilities? How well can people use the ordinary resources of the community?

Networks – do those who support people with dementia communicate, collaborate and plan together sufficiently well to provide the best support and to use people’s own ‘assets’ well?


The “socio-economic position”

The “socio economic position” (SEP) refers to the position of individuals in the hierarchy and is inherently unequal, shaping access to resources and every aspect of experience in the home, neighbourhood and workplace (Krieger 2001a; 2001b; Graham 2004; Regidor 2006). Different dimensions of SEP (education, income, occupation, prestige) may influence health through different pathways and so may be more or less relevant to different health outcomes. It is the extent to which SEP involves exposure to psychological (in addition to material) risks and buffers that is of special interest from
a mental health perspective. SEP structures individual and collective experiences of dominance, hierarchy, isolation, support and inclusion. Social position also influences constructs like identity and social status, which impact on wellbeing, for example, through the effects of low self esteem, shame, disrespect and ‘invidious comparison’ (Rogers and Pilgrim 2005; de Botton, 2004). Sen has previously argued that shame and humiliation are key social dimensions of absolute poverty and that the ‘ability to go about without shame’ is a basic capability or freedom (Sen, cited in Zavaleta 2007).

The use of the term psycho-social is important because it highlights the psychological/emotional/ cognitive impact of social factors, the effects of which need to be distinguished from material factors. For example, unemployment that leads to loss of income is not psycho-social, whereas
the loss of self esteem that accompanies unemployment is (Martikainen et al., 2002). Individual psychological resources, for example, confidence, self-efficacy, optimism and connectedness appear embedded within social structures: our position in relation to others at work, at home, and in public spaces. Because social position influences emotion, cognition and behaviour, it is an ongoing challenge to separate out contextual effects (Singh-Manoux and Marmot 2005). Context was first introduced in chapter 9.

An example of making a community “dementia friendly”

Hampshire County Council, ‘Innovations in Dementia’ and the Local Government Association provide a very good example of steps through which a community can be made more ‘dementia friendly’. They cite that memory problems make life difficult, and suggest the following:

  • people who understand about memory problems – this can be people in shops, bus drivers, friends and family or anyone you come into contact with;
  • clear signposting, so people know where they are going and where things are;
  • clearly-written information on things like bus timetables or leaflets about services;
  • being able to spend time with other people in a similar situation;
  • having someone to go with.


The benefits of “resilient communities”

A wide range of research demonstrates the health significance of social relationships and both formal and informal social systems as mediators of psychosocial stress resulting, for example, from inequality or economic transition. The relationship is not always clear cut (De Silva et al., 2005, 2007). There are different forms of community cohesion with different effects, in low income countries, for example, or for particular groups where strongly bonded communities may exclude minorities.

Nevertheless, communities with high levels of social capital, indicated by norms of trust, reciprocity, and participation, have advantages for the mental health of individuals, and these characteristics have also been seen as indicators of the mental health or wellbeing of a community (Morgan and Swann 2004; Lehtinen et al., 2005; McKenzie and Harpham 2006). The mental health of communities can be both a risk factor (e.g. the concept of social recession) and a protective factor (e.g. the application of herd immunity to mental health) (Stewart-Brown 2003). Hopelessness and a difficulty in imagining solutions, which are also risk factors for suicidal behaviour, are influenced by both neighbourhood culture and the physical environment.

For individuals, social participation and social support in particular, are associated with reduced risk of common mental health problems and better self reported health. Social isolation is an important risk factor for both deteriorating mental health and suicide (Pevalin, and Rose 2003; Social Exclusion Unit 2004). The key question is, perhaps, the extent to which social capital mediates the effects of material deprivation. Many studies have found that social support and social participation do not mediate these effects (Mohan et al. 2004; Morgan and Swann 2004). A recent ecological study of 23 high and low income countries found no significant association between trust and adult mortality, life expectancy and infant mortality. Rather the results supported the importance of both absolute and relative income distribution (Lindstrom and Lindstrom 2006).

This does not mean that neighbourhood effects are insignificant: we know that indicators of social fragmentation and conflict in communities, as well as high levels of neighbourhood problems influence outcomes independently of socio-economic status (Agyemang et al. 2007; Steptoe
 and Feldman 2001). Mistrust and powerlessness amplify the effect of neighbourhood disorder, making where you live as important for health and wellbeing as personal circumstances (Krueger et al., 2004).

Socially disorganised areas provide a dangerous mix: large numbers of potential offenders who have few opportunities other than crime, many potential victims, and few social organisations or individuals who are capable of protecting others from violence (Krueger et al., 2004). Area level effects may be particularly significant for some causes of mortality: in Scotland, for example, increases in inequalities in mortality are driven by increases in death rates at a young age in areas of high deprivation, for example for liver disease, suicide and assault and mental and behavioural disorders due to drugs (Leyland, 2007).

It may be that negative symptoms of low morale and psycho-social vulnerability in communities, including anxiety, paranoia, aggression, hostility, withdrawal and retreat, have a greater power than protective factors, or, as we saw in relation to resilient places, that material resources outweigh other factors.




Dementia Action Alliance, National Dementia Declaration. http://www.dementiaaction.org.uk/who_are_we/national_dementia_declaration

RSA: Connected communities


Department of Health: The Dementia Challenge Dementia friendly communities


WHO Global network of age-friendly cities and communities




Disability Discrimination Act [2005]


Equalities Act [2010]




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