Planning for Dementia-Friendly Communities
PAS Memo — November-December 2021
By Jonathan Katz
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In the United States, about one in 10 older adults — roughly five million people — have some form of dementia. The aging of the population, however, means that this number will likely grow to about eight to 10 million people over the next 20 years.
People with dementia will be a growing population in almost every community, and will be increasingly present in public spaces and local neighborhoods. But this will happen in a built environment that does not always suit people with dementia. Dementia affects the way people interact with and in spaces, and many people with memory loss find typical ways of interacting with the built environment or other people difficult or impossible. The way that planners plan neighborhoods, facilities, and services can make it easier or harder for people with dementia to use, live in, or go to and from these places.
Many planners simply have not thought about dementia — but they should. When the needs of people with dementia are considered, places become safer and easier to navigate. A dementia-friendly community allows people with dementia to have a safe, accessible, and dignified life in the community. By making dementia-friendly spaces, planners can play a big role in achieving that goal.
This PAS Memo identifies strategies and best practices to incorporate dementia-friendly approaches in planning for transportation, housing, public space, urban fabric, and social services. To prepare planners for doing this work, it provides background information about how people with dementia experience the built environment, offers guidance on how to reach out to people with dementia and their care partners, and introduces various organizations and actors that work with people with dementia and their care partners that can connect with planners' work. Throughout, it suggests action steps and highlights examples from across North America to help planners create more dementia-friendly communities.
About the Author
Jonathan Paul Katz is a recent master of community planning graduate from the University of Maryland–College Park, where he focused on planning for disabled and aging communities. Before his studies, he worked for a New York City government agency on accessible communications. He currently works for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.