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Creating more dementia-friendly communities at heart of new B.C. research

January 31, 2022

A team of British Columbia researchers, led by Simon Fraser University, is working to create more dementia-friendly neighborhoods across the province.

Funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Alzheimer Society of Canada, their goal is to improve how those living with dementia, and their caregivers, access their communities and can enjoy a better quality of life. A public announcement of today’s funding by the federal Minister of Health marks the launch of projects across Canada committed to building dementia-friendly communities.

SFU gerontology professor Habib Chaudhury is heading up the project, Dementia-inclusive Streets and Community Access, Participation and Engagement, or DemSCAPE, with a team of researchers from University of British Columbia and University of Northern British Columbia.

Persons living with dementia and care partners in Metro Vancouver will engage in a participatory research process to identify the neighbourhood built environmental features that effect their mobility and wayfinding in carrying out everyday activities in the community. Additionally, they will participate in providing input to identify barriers and potential improvements that will inform municipal planners and engineers to develop dementia-inclusive neighbourhood environments.

Together with the cities of Richmond, Burnaby and Prince George and the Alzheimer Society of B.C., the team will develop guidelines for dementia-inclusive communities and environmental audit tool for those living with dementia that support mobility and participation.

“The neighbourhood environment has a critical role in fostering independence and autonomy for people living with dementia,” says Chaudhury. “People with cognitive decline need to feel safe and comfortable in their own communities, as they access amenities and services, particularly as more choose to age in place in their homes.

“Understanding how to create neighborhood environments that support safety, mobility, engagement and social participation can play a critical role in enhancing the quality of life for individuals living with dementia, and enabling them to stay engaged with their communities.”

Research collaborators include UBC researchers Lillian Hung, Canada Research Chair and founder of UBC’s IDEA lab; and Alison Phinney, co-director of the Centre for Research on Personhood in Dementia and UNBC researchers Shannon Freeman, associate professor of nursing; and Mark Groulx, professor with the School of Planning and Sustainability.