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UK Government Backs Scheme to Make Pubs ‘Dementia Friendly’

A drive to make pubs, restaurants and cafés across the UK more dementia-friendly has been launched by Scottish experts researching the impact of ageing.

The University of Stirling’s internationally-renowned Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) has developed a certification scheme that will encourage pub and restaurant owners to make adaptations for people with age-related degenerative conditions.

The voluntary scheme will make the spaces more accessible to people with conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s so that they can enjoy going out with their families and carers.

The aim is to create a Google map to chart all dementia-friendly facilities across the UK. Establishments would bear a badge to show they’ve considered things like a clear line of sight to the bar, clearly signposted toilets, some private and quieter tables, easy-to-read menus and staff with an understanding of the condition to give customers the support they require.

The University is keen to break down social barriers associated with dementia. Their scheme sits in tandem with the new Intergenerational Living Innovation Hub, part-funded by £7.25 million from the UK Government through the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal, to pioneer technologies for an ageing society.

Balhousie Brookfield care manager Lisa Thomson with University of Stirling academic Lesley Palmer

Lesley Palmer, the University of Stirling’s Acting Director of DSDC, said:

“We have long accepted that there should be no barriers for people with wheelchairs. Similarly, there should be no barriers for people with dementia – they should be able to go out for a drink or a meal without stigma and feel comfortable.

The scheme is entirely voluntary for owners, and by making relatively small and inexpensive adaptations, pubs and restaurants can become accredited.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland Malcolm Offord has welcomed the scheme

UK Government Scotland Office Minister Malcolm Offord recently toured the Dementia Services Development Centre, to learn how the University’s research has brought important changes to approaches to ageing and dementia worldwide. He said:

“I saw first-hand how the solutions pioneered at the University of Stirling will make life easier for our ageing population and we are delighted to be able to support that with more than £7m in funding.

Enabling projects like this is exactly what the City Region Deal is all about. Not only does it encourage employment and growth, it’s also funding research that could make improvements on a global scale.

This scheme will bring great comfort to people with dementia and their families so that they can spend quality time together.”

The scheme was born from the University’s Environments for Ageing and Dementia Design Assessment Tool (EADDAT) which combines the latest research on designing for cognitive change with the expertise of leading architects. It is being developed as part of a major drive from the University, backed by the UK Government, to promote intergenerational living.

There are three categories of badges which tell customers to what extent participating pubs, restaurants and cafes have taken measures to make them more dementia friendly.

Tier one shows customers a venue is dementia “aware” and has made small but important innovations to make life easier for people with dementia.

A tier two badge means the establishment is dementia “supportive” and is awarded when businesses make more comprehensive design changes and DSDC can undertake official accreditation.

A tier three badge is the highest standard and would normally involve a building being dementia “inclusive” from its outset with dementia-friendly designs incorporated in its construction.

In the same way that wheelchair-friendly badges are known across the globe, this scheme will improve quality of life for the elderly. The scheme is not limited to hospitality outlets with other businesses, care homes, hospitals being encouraged to take part.

Adoption by the hospitality industry will bring enormous benefits to the quality of life of those with dementia by helping them socialise while enjoying eating and drinking out.

The scheme has been successfully piloted by Transport for London, West Yorkshire local authority Kirklees Council and the Sakura community hospital in Japan.

Establishments wishing to sign up to the scheme can find more details here.

Case study 

Residents of Balhousie Brookfield Care Home in Carnoustie, Angus, are regulars at the Kinloch Arms in the town.

Kinloch Arms pub manager Rob Alcock displays the ‘dementia friendly' decal at his bar

Care workers often take residents in for lunch or a quick drink, and find pub manager Rob Alcock always willing to help. He’s welcomed the scheme. He said:

“The residents of the Balhousie Brookfield Care Home enjoy coming in for a drink or a meal with their families or carers and it’s lovely to see. They are very valued customers. To me, it makes sense to make our pubs and restaurants more welcoming to those with dementia.”

Mary Connolly, 74, used to visit the Kinloch with husband Richard, 80, who has been suffering from dementia for the past seven years. Great-grandad of two Richard is now in full-time care at Balhousie Care Group’s Brookfield but Mary notices a distinct improvement in his recollections when he visits the pub. She said:

“I think this is a fantastic scheme to make places more aware of the condition and have patience with people. Just a few measures, like having quieter tables available and staff with an understanding of dementia will make a tremendous difference.

Richard and I used to go to the Kinloch Arms together and it’s lovely to be in there with him now and see how the familiar environment brings back memories for him. Those moments are very precious to me and our family.

This illness is very cruel – it robs families like ours of our loved ones. Going out for lunch in a known place is a simple pleasure for Richard and I welcome with open arms anything that will make that easier.”


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