Making Alexandria a “Dementia Friendly” City

By MaryAnne Beatty

ALEXANDRIA,VA- Earlier this year, Alexandria was accepted into the Dementia Friendly America network, which is part of a global movement developed by the Alzheimer’s Society in the United Kingdom. The effort is being led by the City Commission on Aging and Goodwin House Alexandria to make Alexandria a “Dementia Friendly” city.

What does this mean? The goal of a dementia friendly community is to help everyone understand more about dementia, how it affects people, and how we each can make a difference in the lives of people living with the disease and their caregivers.

Across the United States, an estimated 5.7 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s dementia and this includes approximately 5.5 million ages 65 and older. Nearly 60 percent of people with dementia live in their own communities and one in seven lives alone. *

The Dementia Friendly America movement began in September 2015, following the White House Conference on Aging, and is based on the State of Minnesota’s initiative, ACT on Alzheimer’s. Communities around the country are taking action, with more than 200 in 40 states going through the process of becoming dementia friendly.

Alexandria’s Dementia Friendly initiative began in late February, when an action team assembled consisting of law enforcement, local government, residential and home care services, and local nonprofits.

The Action Team includes Senior Services of Alexandria (SSA), Old Dominion Home Care, Division of Aging and Adult Services, Goodwin House Alexandria, Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria Public Library, Alexandria Police Department, Commission on Aging, At Home in Alexandria and Dementia Care Connections. The Commission on Aging and Goodwin House Alexandria serve as the champion organizations.

Official support for the initiative came from the City’s Division of Aging and Adult Services, SSA, Alexandria Police Department, LeadingAge Virginia, and Dementia Friendly Herndon. The Dementia Friendly Initiative has the support of Mayor Justin Wilson and the City Council.

For its initial effort to inform all sectors of the city, the team has reached out to the faith community and local emergency services. Education efforts continue to make various segments of the Alexandria community aware of this initiative and to become “Dementia Friendly Champions” within their respective communities.

The goal is to support people who have dementia and their families and to make them aware of the resources available to them. Dementia Friendly Champion volunteers are not expected to know everything about Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, rather to have or know about resources to pass along to those in need. This includes the Alzheimer’s Association Helpline – 800-272-3900.

If you want to learn more about becoming a Dementia Friendly Champion or about the initiative in general, please contact Jackie Barbarito at jbarbarito@goodwinhouse.org or Jane King with the Commission on Aging at kingjane0@gmail.com. You can also email DFAlexandria@goodwinhouse.org.

It is possible to have a good quality of life with dementia—and there is more to the person than the dementia. Let’s work together to improve the lives of those with dementia.

*Information and statistics provided by Dementia Friendly Alexandria Action Team and the World Health Organization.

MaryAnne Beatty is the Director of Community Outreach for Senior Services of Alexandria.

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