Dementia friendly communities blog post 01/04/2017

What is a dementia friendly community?                                                                                 

By Nicole Darlington

In 2012, Prime Minister David Cameron delivered his challenge on Dementia promoting Dementia Friendly Communities (DFCs) as the key to achieving inclusion and support for individuals with dementia and their carers by 2020.

Since 2012, there has been a huge rise in the number of communities with a dementia focus, with the Alzheimer’s Society now formally recognising 193 communities in England alone as working towards becoming dementia friendly.

Despite the growing popularity of DFCs there is no universal or standard definition. The word ‘community’ is broad and can be interpreted differently: some for example, may see it as a geographical area, whereas others may see is as a ‘faith’ or ‘cultural’ community. The British Standards Institute (BSI) uses the following definition of a DFC:

“…In a dementia friendly community people are aware of and understand dementia, and people with dementia feel included and involved, and have choice and control over their day-to-day lives”

BSI (2015)

‘Dementia friendly’ as a phrase is not without its challenges in how its meaning is interpreted. Increasingly DFCs are discussing the rights of people affected by dementia. Tom Shakespeare in a recent BBC podcast reflected that:

Even a phrase like ‘dementia friendly’, while apparently positive, could be considered patronizing and inappropriate. The implication is that the solution to the problem is for people without dementia to be kind and considerate and welcoming of people with dementia. But if part of the problem is socially-imposed barriers, devaluing and even human rights violations, then the term ‘friendly’ might be judged an inappropriate response which we would not use for other minorities. Why don’t we talk about rights? We don’t want ‘dementia friendly’ communities, we want ‘dementia enabling communities’; we don’t just need ‘dementia friends’, we need ‘dementia allies’.”

Link to Tom Shakespeares BBC podcast (

How large is a DFC?

DFCs have no defined structure, a community can be as large as a region, as small as a local parish or a group of people with common aims. Usually, the type of DFC created tends to depend on the size of the Local Dementia Action Alliance (LDAA) associated with it. LDAAs are ‘grass roots’ initiatives and bring together individuals and organisations with a common aim of making their local area dementia friendly. LDAAs can overlap geographically and member organisations are encouraged to participate in more than one. DFCs are not required to associate themselves with LDAAs, but the association helps bring together different organisations such as the local council or local businesses and commit to delivering action.

See if your area has a local dementia action alliance:


An organisation, such as a local supermarket, can be recongised as a ‘community’ that is dementia friendly. There are a number of these kinds of DFCs recognised by the Alzheimer’s Society including a: fire service, shopping centre, housing association, university, church and a school.


What does ‘Dementia Friendly’ look like?

Despite the definition being broad, many DFCs still share common features.

Most communities will agree that a key feature of any DFC is increasing awareness, knowledge and understanding of dementia throughout the community. This tends to be the starting point for most communities and can be demonstrated by activities such as events aimed at raising awareness; local businesses and individuals attending dementia training; and signposting to relevant services.

With awareness and understanding comes offering Dementia Friendly services. This might involve a community creating a new service that was not offered before (such as dementia support groups or dementia cafes) or adapting current services to make them more dementia friendly (such as slow lanes in local supermarkets or dementia friendly swimming sessions).

The most important feature of a DFC, however, is the involvement of people living with dementia. They can be involved in both increasing awareness and implementing change and know that their voice is being heard. Communities hold a responsibility to make sure individuals living with dementia are empowered and enabled to fully participate in their local networks and wider society.

DFCs raise awareness and look for ways that ensure local polices, facilities and services take are informed by and take account of the needs of people affected by dementia.

The experience of living with dementia is diverse and DFCs can reflect and support that diversity.

DEMCOM is a National Evaluation of Dementia Friendly Communities funded by the department of health. A 30 month project, it started on the 9th January 2017. To learn more about dementia friendly communities and receive updates on DEMCOM then visit our project page or follow us on twitter @DEMCOMstudy

Please see here for more information on the DEMCOM project 



This project is independent research commissioned and funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programme (Dementia Friendly Communities: The DEMCOM evaluation, PR-R15-0116-21003). The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Department of Health.

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