dementiaLocal environments need to be planned better in order to enable people with dementia to live more independently – and in doing so help to stop the future cost of dementia care from rocketing, experts have said.

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) said that local planning can play a much stronger role in creating dementia-friendly communities across the UK so that people with dementia can continue to stay in their own home for as long as possible, reducing the pressure on the NHS and controlling the costs for health and social care. It made this call as it published its first ‘Dementia and Town Planning’ practice note. 

The RTPI say that only a minority of local authorities have adopted plans that explicitly mention dementia, including Plymouth City Council and Brighton and Hove City Council. 

About 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK today, and it is estimated that this will rise to 1 million by 2025 and to 2 million by 2051. The estimated cost of dementia to the UK economy is £26 billion a year, with approximately 25% of all hospital beds occupied by people with dementia in 2013, according to research by the Alzheimer’s Society. 

However, research has shown that older people and those with dementia living within a 5 to 10 minute walk from local shops and services are able to live well and remain independent for longer, according to the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development, Oxford Brookes University.

Trudi Elliott, chief executive of the RTPI, said: “Careful and often small decisions on the location and design of public spaces, new housing and transport make a huge difference on our quality of life, but especially on older citizens and those living with dementia. Given the escalating scale and costs of ageing and poor health in the country, it is vital that local authorities maximise the potential of planners and good planning in supporting health and social care policies, reducing costs and improving lives.” 

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, added: “The Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia states that by 2020 we would wish to see an increased number of people with dementia being able to live longer in their own homes, with a greater focus on independent living. This will be achieved only with greater support in people's own homes from trained professionals, and by improving the homes and the local environment to ensure they are as helpful and barrier-free as possible. I encourage all concerned to take the RTPI’s useful advice on board and support those with dementia to live the lives they want to.”

Dementia and Town Planning is the RTPI’s latest practice note that aims to develop knowledge and raise standards among planners. It contains information and guidance on how to deliver dementia-friendly spaces and buildings, including:

10 characteristics of a dementia-friendly community by the Alzheimer’s Society

Designing dementia-friendly outdoor environments by Neighbourhoods for Life

The Place Standard Tool by the Scottish Government

The Lifetime Homes Standard

How to assess buildings for people with dementia by Innovations in Dementia.

To download the practice note, click here.