We know that walking has health benefits for all age groups. But for people with dementia, walking the neighbourhood becomes more challenging. Yet walking is important for dementia prevention and management. So how can we make streetscapes dementia friendly? The Age and Dementia Streetscapes Toolkit is a great start. Based on participatory action research, the toolkit is a very practical guide.
Around 70% of people with dementia are staying in their home environments. As we know, walking is good for physical and mental health. But what can councils do in practical terms to support people with dementia to get out and about?
Moonee Valley City Council in Victoria wanted to know how to make environments more welcoming. They commissioned a project to find out what design features are most important to older residents. The resulting toolkit is the result of much consultation within local communities. The toolkit shows how a few tweaks can make places more vibrant, supportive and accessible.
The consultation process focused on one main street. It was chosen because it was surrounded by a high density of older people. They found that shops had a role to play especially where shopkeepers knew residents by name.
The Age n Dem Toolkit was developed to provide a practical guide for the design of inclusive and accessible streetscapes. It “identifies elements that support inclusive built environment outcomes for older people generally as well as for people living with dementia.”
The process of developing the toolkit was also published in the Journal of Transport and Health. Extracts from the abstract follow.
Extract from Abstract
Age’n’dem was a participatory design process with older residents of Moonee Valley. It informed streetscape design, ensured access for older people including people with dementia, and to ensured measures were inclusive. The experiential learning process informed redesign of Union Road streetscape in Ascot Vale, Victoria. This street operated as an intact and attractive environment for shopping, and was surrounded by the highest density of older people in the municipality. Shops played an important role in supporting people to age in place.
Shopkeepers played an informal role by looking out for regulars, and helping out when and if something happened. Residents relied on it. Walking up the street, passing the time in a familiar place and dropping in on shopkeepers had become part of a daily ritual for many locals. What the shopkeepers did informally was better than any response any community service could offer.
Our role became one of supporting a natural and organic response by listening, watching and learning. We knew that If we made the street more comfortable we could sustain older residents’ interest as they age. We also knew that walking plays a key role in dementia prevention. Investing in local’s knowledge was important. Process is everything. Our most articulate supporters are the older residents themselves talking on national radio, and statewide press.