No community will ever be fully dementia-friendly. But every community making progress towards being dementia-friendly should be recognized and celebrated. Since the Massachusetts Dementia Friendly Initiative began in 2016, communities have received formal recognition for being dementia-friendly.
If your community would like to get involved, here is what you’ll need to do.
Step One: Reach Out to the Community
Dementia-friendly communities work best when members of the community participate and work together. Communities will typically gather people from their city or town who have expressed enthusiasm for making their community more dementia friendly. Many hold an informational session to inform the general public about the intention of introducing dementia-friendly actions. Invitation and outreach materials are available to help generate interest and recruit residents including people living with dementia and their care partners, civic leaders, and local government officials.
Communities should consider pursuing both together.
Step Two: Create an Action Team; Identify a Leader or Co-Leaders
Action teams are comprised of residents, community representatives, local government officials, or anyone in the community interested in shaping the dementia-friendly initiative in their city or town. Its members should include representatives from at least three community sectors. The action team is responsible for reviewing resident needs; assessing options for addressing those needs; and developing and implementing an action plan. While conducting their work, action teams should involve people directly or indirectly affected by dementia. An action team needs a leader or co-leaders responsible for convening and leading the team’s collaborative work. Some examples of community leaders include members of the local faith community, a home care agency owner, a librarian, or a former Council on Aging Board member
Step Three: Check out the Data in Your Community
With the support of the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, the University of Massachusetts Boston Gerontology Institute has created a community profile for each city and town in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report can help the community’s dementia friendly action team, residents, agencies, health care providers, and government officials understand the older adults who live in their citiy or town.
Step Four: Raise Awareness
While an action team works to assess community needs and develop a dementia friendly community action plan, it often makes sense to concurrently take some initial steps to help its team and community members understand dementia, and what it means for people who are living with the condition. There are several ways to raise awareness, for example:
- Share 2.5-minute videos depicting life with dementia and the benefits of dementia-friendly communities
- Convene a dementia-friendly night at the local library where a person living with the dementia talks about what it would mean to live in a dementia-friendly community
- Convene Dementia Friends information session(s)
Convene training for community professionals available from the Alzheimer’s Association MA/ NH Chapter. For more information about this free training entitled, “Dementia & Your Community,” call 1-800-272-3900.
Step Five: Develop a Plan of Action & Implement
Taking action is a community’s most essential part of working toward becoming more dementia friendly. By listening to residents, especially people living with the condition; identifying and reviewing resident needs; and developing an action plan, communities are able to identify their priorities and take action. Many communities take the opportunity to convene a kickoff event to celebrate the completion of their action plan. This type of kickoff meeting often serves as a way to engage the community and promote awareness of the community’s dementia friendly initiative. Templates of invitations and marketing materials for a kickoff event are available for communities to use. Communities should inform the Dementia Friendly Massachusetts project manager of the status of their action plan and its implementation at firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can be directed to relevant and valuable resources, technical assistance and advice.
Step Six: Check out the Data in Your Community
With the support of the Tufts Health Plan, the University of Massachusetts Boston Gerontology Institute has created a community profile for each city and town in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report is designed to help residents, agencies, health care providers, and governments understand the older adults who live in their cities and towns.
Step Seven: Sign the DFM Pledge
To be recognized for their commitment to implement the steps outlined in the community’s action plan, the action team submits the Dementia Friendly Massachusetts (DFM) Pledge, which is available here. Communities can email their signed Pledge to the DFM Project Manager, Patty Sullivan at email@example.com. Communities that submit their signed Pledge along with a copy of their action plan and a list of the advisory committee members will receive a certificate and public recognition. Before signing the Pledge, communities are asked to create an action plan that includes the involvement of persons living with dementia and have their action team, its leader(s) and at least one municipal leader or elected official sign the document.