Wimpole in Cambridge

Two of the UK’s most popular charities, the National Trust and Alzheimer’s Society, have unveiled a three-year project to make all of the Trust’s historic and countryside sites accessible for millions of people with dementia.

The project will see the Trust’s 500 historic and countryside sites be made dementia-friendly in the first project of its kind for the Trust.

It comes as figures reveal that seven percent (about 150,000) of National Trust supporters over the age of 65, including its volunteers, staff and members, may be living with the condition.

For people with dementia and their carers, historic spaces, collections and stories can prompt and stimulate discussion and connection, encourage outdoor exploration, and offer a vital connection to the world around them, with day trips recognised as one of the most likely and regular activities for people living with the condition and their carers.

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In comparison to other visitor attractions, people with dementia also view heritage sites as ‘safe’ and familiar spaces. Heritage (including visiting sites and participating in outdoors projects) has also been found to be one of the top activities of choice for those with dementia, in surveys and focus groups carried out by Alzheimer’s Society.

The project will give the Trust’s staff and 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 dementia patients.

Alzheimer’s Society is also publishing a new guide to help tourism businesses make themselves more dementia-friendly.

In addition, the new partnership 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), 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.

Volunteering and Inclusion Director at the National Trust 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.”

Supporting those with dementia is part of a wider National Trust commitment to ensure as many people as possible feel welcomed at its places.

Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society Chief Executive, commented: “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.”

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