Dementia-friendly places could reduce burden on social care, says RTPI report

Good quality housing and well planned local environments could reduce the burden on social care by ensuring people living with dementia stay in their own homes for longer, according to new advice published by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

Dementia and Town Planning: Creating Better environments for people living with dementia, endorsed by Alzheimer’s UK and Public Health England and published to mark World Alzheimer’s Day 2020, sets out different approaches and tools town planners can use to ensure homes and local environments are dementia-friendly.

The advice, which updates a previous version published in 2017, includes evidence, facts, legislative context, tools and case studies to help planners create dementia-friendly homes and urban environments to enable those with the condition to remain in their own homes for as long as possible

Sarah Lewis, MRTPI, planning practice officer at the RTPI and author of the report, said: “Careful consideration must be given to the design and location of housing for people living with dementia, most of whom want to remain in their own homes. This is especially important in light of the pandemic.

“Ensuring a safe, comfortable and familiar environment with easy access to amenities like local shops, doctors, post offices, banks and green spaces can help those with dementia live active and fulfilling lives while remaining in their own homes.

“With the numbers of those living with dementia on the increase, social care figures rising and uncertainty around future lockdowns, all potentially putting more pressure on the NHS, there has never been a more important time to address this issue for the benefit of not only those with dementia but also the wider community.”

According to official figures, there are approximately 850,000 people in the UK with dementia and this figure is expected to increase to 1.6 million by 2040. Social care costs are set to triple to £45.4 billion by 2040. The cost of keeping an elderly person in their own home is £11,000 less than if they were in social care.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that more than a quarter of those who died from Covid-19 in England and Wales between March and May 2020 had dementia.

The advice sets out a number of key principles that planners should adhere to when planning and designing dementia-friendly places, such ensuring clear street signage; easy access to open spaces with toilet facilities, seating, shelter and good lighting; wide, flat and non-slip footpaths.

It also suggests that dementia-friendly homes should prioritise safety, have clearly defined rooms, non-reflective surfaces, simple patterns and sound-proofing.

It also gives advice on how town planners can work with other professions to create better environments for people living with dementia, citing case studies and examples from around the UK.

The advice forms part of the RTPI’s Plan The World We Need campaign that calls on governments across the UK and Ireland to capitalise on the expertise of planners to achieve a sustainable, resilient and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.