By Jackie Barbarito
According to the World Health Organization, there are about 50 million people living with dementia in the United States, with this number expected to increase to 80 million by 2030 and a staggering 152 million by 2050.
Dementia is a community issue that must be addressed at a community level. A dementia friendly community is informed, safe and respectful of individuals with dementia and their families, provides supportive options across community sectors and fosters quality of life. Every part of the community has a specific role in fostering meaningful access to and engagement in community life for people living with dementia, their family and care partners.
What is Dementia Friendly America?
Dementia Friendly America is a multi-sector, national, regional, state and local collaboration seeking to advance dementia friendly communities across the United States. DFA fosters local community transformation using tools, resources and technical assistance designed to equip communities to better support people living with dementia and their care partners.
The Dementia Friendly America movement began in September 2015 following the White House Conference on Aging and is based on Minnesota’s successful statewide ACT on Alzheimer’s. Led by DFA, communities across the nation are taking action and becoming more dementia friendly by leveraging tailored resources and tools for community sectors.
Dementia Friendly Alexandria
The Dementia Friendly Alexandria initiative is led by Goodwin House and the Alexandria Commission on Aging. The action team consists of individuals from nonprofit organizations that support and serve older adults, local government entities, residential care services and home care providers, in addition to volunteers who are community members and caregivers.
Dementia Friendly Alexandria’s action team first came together after a call-to-action meeting with community leaders held by Goodwin House Alexandria in February 2019. Alexandria officially received the Dementia Friendly designation in late April 2019. In July 2019, Mayor Justin Wilson presented a city proclamation which called Alexandrians to take part in the Dementia Friendly initiative.
Within our first year of designation, the action team provided training to the Alexandria Police Department, Alexandria Sheriff’s Office and the local AARP Chapter. The team has also held training for multiple faith communities, including Virginia Theological Seminary, Westminster Presbyterian, First Assembly of God and Meade Memorial Episcopal Church Throughout the pandemic, the team continues to meet virtually on a monthly basis and has set high goals for the upcoming year.
Our Dementia Friendly Alexandria action team members are passionate about serving those with dementia and their caregivers. We are sharing and spreading that passion with the Alexandria community as we advance awareness of dementia and provide support to make it easier for all of us to share the experience of living with dementia.
If you would like to schedule/attend a training or join our action team, please email Jackie Barbarito at [email protected] for more information. Feel free to pass along our contact information to those who may also want to get involved.
The writer is administrator of assisted living and memory support at Goodwin House Alexandria.