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RTPI: Good local planning is key to controlling dementia cost

Words: Laura Edgar

Costs will quickly increase unless there is better planning of local environments to help people with dementia live independently, says the RTPI.

In the practice note Dementia and town planning, the RTPI states that local planning can play a much stronger role in creating dementia-friendly communities across the UK to ensure that people with dementia can stay in their own home for as long as possible.

This, the note explains, would reduce the pressure on the NHS and control the costs for health and social care.

The RTPI said scarcely any local authorities have adopted plans that explicitly mention dementia, with Plymouth City Council and Brighton and Hove City Council among the few that had.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society website, 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia, and this figure is projected to increase to more than one million by 2025. The charity estimates that the cost of dementia to the UK economy is £26 billion a year.

Trudi Elliott, chief executive at the RTPI, said: “Careful and often small decisions on the location and design of public spaces, new housing and transport make a huge difference on our quality of life, but especially on older citizens and those living with dementia. Given the escalating scale and costs of ageing and poor health in the country, it is vital that local authorities maximise the potential of planners and good planning in supporting health and social care policies, reducing costs and improving lives.”

The practice note states that “careful consideration” should be given to the design and location of housing for older people. This could be mainstream housing or bungalows, step-free apartments, sheltered housing, extra care and retirement or residential care homes. If these were located in community hubs within in a 10-minute walk of local shops and services, this would “allow people living with dementia the ability to live well and remain independent for longer”.

To meet the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia 2020 and allow more people with dementia to live independently, Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said “greater support in people's own homes from trained professionals, and by improving the homes and the local environment to ensure they are as helpful and barrier-free as possible” is needed.

The practice note contains information and guidance on how to deliver dementia-friendly spaces and buildings, including:

  • Ten characteristics of a dementia-friendly community by the Alzheimer’s Society
  • Designing dementia-friendly outdoor environments by Neighbourhoods for Life
  • The Place Standard Tool by the Scottish Government

The practice note can be found here.