The National Trust and Alzheimer’s Society are joining forces to embark on an ambitious three-year project improve accessibility for people with dementia at some of the UK’s most historic sites.
The project will see all of the National Trust’s 500 historic and countryside sites made dementia-friendly, in the first project of its kind for the Trust.
It comes as figures reveal that seven per cent (about 150,000) of National Trust supporters over the age of 65, including its volunteers, staff and members, may be living with the condition.
Launched at the culmination of World Alzheimer’s Month, the project will give the Trust’s 9,000 staff and 65,000 volunteers the opportunity to join Alzheimer Society’s three million Dementia Friends, and learn more about how the Trust’s sites can be more welcoming to those affected by dementia.
Alzheimer’s Society is also publishing a new guide to help tourism businesses make themselves more dementia-friendly.
The partnershipwill focus on upskilling the 74,000 people who work and volunteer for the National Trust, improving the accessibility of National Trust sites for all visitors, and improving internal policies and processes to support members of staff and volunteers who may be affected by the condition
It will also see improvements at some properties, from improved signage, facilities and modifications to materials used on paths and car parks, to developing dementia services (such as cafes, tours and social events).
This will also include taking heritage to local care homes, hospitals, day centres and community groups, and leading the drive for more dementia-friendly communities by hosting awareness raising activities and making improvements for those living with the disease.
The National Trust’s volunteering and inclusion director Tiger de Souza said: “Dementia is the greatest health concern of our time, so it is important that people living with the condition can continue to enjoy a positive and fulfilling life.
“We also know that our natural and historic places can play a significant role in improving the wellbeing of people living with dementia by helping to stimulate discussion and memories.
“A number of our sites are already offering great experiences for people living with dementia, and through this landmark partnership we aim to extend those benefits to many more people.
“However, we recognise there are challenges around both accessibility and the support available at these sites and this is why we are joining forces with Alzheimer’s Society.”
Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society’s chief executive, added: “Alzheimer’s Society is delighted to be uniting with one of the UK’s biggest heritage organisations to help ensure people with dementia are better included in society.
“It’s great to have the National Trust encouraging people with dementia to feel confident in getting out and about in their local community.
“Visiting a heritage site can improve physical and mental health by helping people keep active.
“The importance of such venues increases as we get older, as a place to relax, recover and engage through multi-sensory stimulation of the space around us.
“We hear through Side by Side, our scheme linking people with dementia to volunteers supporting them to do the things they love, that visiting a heritage site is one of the most popular activities for people affected by dementia.”