An ambitious new project has been launched by two charities to help people with dementia connect with history and nature.
The National Trust has united with Alzheimer’s Society to make all of its 500 historic and countryside sites dementia-friendly – the first project of its kind for the trust.
It will improve the accessibility of National Trust sites for all visitors and see upgrades at some properties, including developing dementia services and taking heritage to care homes and hospitals.
Staff and volunteers will be given the opportunity to join Alzheimer’s Society’s three million Dementia Friends, a programme aiming to change perceptions of dementia.
Some 9,000 staff and 65,000 volunteers at the trust will also learn about how the sites can be more welcoming to those affected by the condition.
Alzheimer’s Society will publish a new guide to help tourism businesses make themselves more dementia-friendly, in an announcement on the last day of September, which is World Alzheimer’s Month.
It comes as analysis by the National Trust revealed that 7% of supporters (around 150,000 people) over the age of 65 may be living with the condition.
Research from Alzheimer’s Society shows that one in every 14 people in the UK aged 65 and over has dementia.
The National Trust’s volunteering and inclusion director, Tiger de Souza, said: “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.”
Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society’s chief executive, said: “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.”