Calgary needs more dementia-friendly spaces, advocate says

·2 min read
Kim Brundrit, collective impact lead, Dementia Network Calgary, left, and Dallas Seitz, associate professor at the University of Calgary, right.   (Supplied by Dementia Network Calgary/Dallas Seitz - image credit)
Kim Brundrit, collective impact lead, Dementia Network Calgary, left, and Dallas Seitz, associate professor at the University of Calgary, right. (Supplied by Dementia Network Calgary/Dallas Seitz - image credit)

Calgary is lacking in dementia-friendly spaces, an advocate says, and her group is part of a new project trying to figure out what one could look like.

Shopping centres, grocery stores, parks and events across the city could all be made dementia-friendly, said Kim Brundrit, collective impact lead, Dementia Network Calgary.

"I think Calgary needs to be a more dementia-inclusive place in general," she said.

She estimates at least 20,000 Calgarians have dementia, which causes loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities.

"Our population of older adults is increasing, and therefore the people living with dementia is going to go up in numbers," she said.

"I think it will just become part of our daily lives, just like people with physical disabilities. Every corner on every street has wheelchair accessibility now.… I think anywhere and everywhere we can have this conversation will move it along just a little bit faster."

The Dementia Network Calgary and the Parks Foundation are exploring the idea of creating a dementia-inclusive park in the city, and will be hearing from people with dementia and their caregivers at an event Tuesday.

Associate professor Dallas Seitz, lead researcher of a University of Calgary project looking into the benefits of outdoor spaces for people living with dementia, will be speaking at the event.

"Some of the things that come with dementia-friendly parks or dementia-friendly neighbourhoods include some specific considerations around signage, facilities, access to transport, making aspects of the parks more distinct and familiar, and making sure that they're comfortable and safe," Seitz told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"Really, a dementia friendly park is going to be a park that's good for anyone to to access,"

Following a dementia diagnosis, many people tend to retreat, but Seitz says dementia-friendly spaces would allow for people to be social and get outside.

"There's something mentally rejuvenating about being outdoors, and that can be very beneficial for people with dementia. And then the other way the outdoors seems to impact on health is that it reduces stress."

The City of Calgary says it continually works with various groups to add more parks that accommodate specific interest groups, and is happy to work with special interests to see how parks can be more accommodating.

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