Making ‘dementia friendly’ neighbourhoods

The University of Liverpool and a team of European experts will explore the role of the neighbourhood in the everyday lives of people with dementia in a new research project announced during the G8 dementia summit.

The ’Neighbourhoods and Dementia’ study, led by the University of Manchester, was one of six research projects announced by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) along with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), as part of a £20 million funding boost which will significantly add to the understanding of dementia.

There are currently 44 million people in the world living with dementia, and by 2050 this number is set to treble to 135 million. Following on from last year’s announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron of plans to tackle the ‘national crisis’ posed by dementia, the G8 Dementia summit aims to agree what can be done to stimulate greater investment and innovation in dementia research.

Professor Paula Williamson, from the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine, said: "There is a growing recognition that insufficient attention has been paid to the outcomes measured in clinical trials. In addition, for studies with people with dementia, there has been very limited caregiver and patient involvement in determining the important outcomes to measure.

"This work will allow the results of trials and other studies to be compared, contrasted and combined as appropriate, as well as ensuring that all trials contribute usable information. Trials will also be more likely to measure appropriate outcomes because of the need to involve multiple stakeholder groups, including caregivers and patients, to determine what should be core.’

The project is the first large-scale research programme to work alongside people with dementia and their families in a variety of roles from advisers to co-researchers. The research team will develop Neighbourhood Profiles using existing longitudinal databases to provide more accurate estimates of geographical variation in cognitive ageing and service use to inform policy, commissioning and practice.

As part of the intervention work programme, researchers will develop the first digitalised life story tool for Deaf people (BSL users) who live with dementia.

The research team involves seven universities (Manchester, Stirling, Liverpool, UCL, Salford, Lancaster, and Linköping in Sweden) and four user groups: EDUCATE and Open Doors (Greater Manchester, England); The ACE Club (Rhyl, North Wales) and the Scottish Dementia Working Group (Glasgow, Scotland).

Professor John Keady, lead researcher from The University of Manchester, said: "We are working with dementia patients and their families to help undertake all aspects of the research, from the planning to the doing. This will lead to the development of new research tools for use by people with dementia and their families and help to create innovative ways of working."

ESRC Chief Executive Paul Boyle said: “Dementia is a major challenge for our society, and it is imperative to develop an understanding of the needs of those with dementia, their families and the communities they live in.

“These six funded projects will provide much-needed evidence for changes in future health and social care policy, as well as practical guidance for charities and third sector organisations working with sufferers of dementia."

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