In July, I had the pleasure of leading a discussion at the University of British Columbia’s Interdisciplinary GERO Graduate Student Reading Club. This club consists of a handful of students ranging in educational levels from undergraduate to post-doc in the disciplines of nursing and aging from both Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. In both Nursing and in Gerontology we are well aware that the population is aging and that dementia is a huge health concern (“WHO | Dementia,” 2012). I asked the group to read two articles on a topic I am pretty into lately: Dementia Friendly Communities. The first paper I chose was an empirical piece from Lin and Lewis (2015) which compared thirteen National Dementia Strategies from across the world. The second piece was a report released from Alzheimer’s disease International (2015) showcasing examples of successful grass-roots dementia friendly community initiatives.
The combination of nursing and social sciences backgrounds pushes us out of our academic comfort zones and helps us have a rich and engaging discussion about Dementia Friendly Communities. The seminar began with a conversation around what a Dementia Friendly Community actually looks like in practice. We reviewed the national dementia strategies outlined in Lin and Lewis (2015) and the importance in ensuring these policies have a Dementia Positive component to them when they are implemented. Dementia Positive is a concept that simply means a person with dementia is capable of living a positive meaningful life. Lin and Lewis (2015) elaborate Dementia Positive by saying that, just like anyone, a person with dementia has both strengths and weaknesses. They are unique, dynamic and changing humans, and our national policies must reflect this. Without addressing the possibility of becoming a Dementia Positive (or Dementia Friendly) community we are merely living in a pseudo-inclusive society that accepts and takes care of all members of it’s society but does not treat them as equals.
We discussed some of the possible implications for attempting to accept and normalize dementia, with such initiatives as Dementia Friendly Communities, while still searching for a cure. Referring to the ambitious goal from the G8 Ministers of Health to find a cure or disease modifying therapy for dementia by 2025 (“G8 dementia summit declaration – GOV.UK,” 2013). Already, dementia and cognitive impairment are the leading chronic disease contributors to disability and dependence among older people worldwide (“WHO Governments commit to advancements in dementia research and care,” 2015). We also ended the seminar with a conversation about ethno-cultural differences in understanding dementia as well as dementia friendly communities. All together a very interesting discussion and I look forward to attending Gero Reading Club next month.
Alzheimer ’s disease International. (2015). Dementia Friendly Communities: New domains and global examples (pp. 1–13). Retrieved from http://www.alz.co.uk/ADI-publications#dfcs
G8 dementia summit declaration – GOV.UK. (2013, December 11). Retrieved August 16, 2015, from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/g8-dementia-summit-agreements/g8-dementia-summit-declaration
Lin, S.-Y., & Lewis, F. M. (2015). Dementia Friendly, Dementia Capable, and Dementia Positive: Concepts to Prepare for the Future. The Gerontologist, 55(2), 237–244. http://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnu122
WHO | Dementia: a public health priority. (2012). Retrieved August 16, 2015, from http://www.who.int/mental_health/publications/dementia_report_2012/en/
WHO | Governments commit to advancements in dementia research and care. (2015, March 17). Retrieved August 16, 2015, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/action-on-dementia/en/