Written by Sophie Okolo
A new dementia-friendly community may exist in Wisconsin this year. Plans for the positive change went underway at an Open House event in Portage, Wis. Monday. The event was held at the Portage Public Library and hosted by the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the people living with this disease is increasing in Wisconsin. With the alarming statistics of the prevalence of AD, it is necessary for communities to better understand and support their local citizens suffering from the disease.
AD currently has no cure. According to the National Institute on Aging, if the current population trends continue, the number of people with AD will increase significantly. Being that the disease cannot effectively be treated or prevented, communities are looking to tackle the Alzheimer’s epidemic using new methods.
The description of a dementia-friendly community is “ …one that has looked at its shops, restaurants, markets and streets through the eyes of a person with dementia, then does everything it can to make it a place where they can continue to live as independently as possible,” according to Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin.
The City of Portage is not the first city in Wisconsin to become dementia-friendly. Last year, Middleton, Wis. was the first community in Dane County to make efforts to accommodate those suffering from the memory afflicting disease. Another town making headlines for their dementia-friendly changes is Watertown, Wis., a town of 24,000 residents that was featured in AARP’s bulletin.
Dementia-friendly communities are not common in the U.S. However, this is starting to change as Minnesota has launched a statewide collaborative to improve the quality of life for those with AD and other memory impairments.
In Europe, where the idea of making communities dementia-friendly is spreading, cities including Bruges, Belgium and York, England have set examples for current and future communities. York is “…designing leisure services such as health walks and guided bicycle tours for people with dementia.”
Individuals with AD and other memory impairments need caring communities as they deal with this disease. Hopefully, the City of Portage can join a group that is already improving the lives of its citizens.
Would you like to see your community become dementia friendly? If so, what changes would you like to see?