Over the past seven months, we’ve worked closely to align the efforts of the Collaborative with our partners working to build age- and dementia friendly communities across the Commonwealth.
Using as a guide the “Better Together” Report from AARP that crosswalks the age- and dementia friendly processes and toolkits, the Collaborative has coordinated outreach and engagement efforts with AARP-Massachusetts and Dementia Friendly Massachusetts. MHAC has also been working with those partners and the Alzheimer’s Association of Massachusetts/New Hampshire on tracking age- and dementia friendly commitments from cities and towns.
We now have a new resource to support these efforts. Tufts Health Plan Foundation just released the Report on Demographics, Programs, and Services for an Age- and Dementia-Friendly Commonwealth. This report provides a comprehensive look at the current activities and resources to support people living with dementia and their caregivers in our state. Research was conducted by Elizabeth Dugan, PhD, Nina M. Silverstein, PhD, Shuangshuang Wang, Bon Kim, and Natalie Pitheckoff from the Gerontology Institute of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
One of the key findings from the report was that most community stakeholders are not aware of the prevalence of dementia in their community, and the vast majority of the towns in the Commonwealth have not yet focused their community planning on the dementia population.
The statewide rate of dementia in older adults is 14%, compared to the national average of 11%. The rate varies by community, with rates in some areas as high as 24%.
It is hard to make changes if there is no awareness of a problem. There are a number of recommendations noted in the report to increase awareness, including:
- Build on the foundations laid by the age-friendly movement to move communities toward becoming more Dementia Friendly.
- Work with communities to establish more Silver Alert and TRIAD programs with a focus on dementia.
- Encourage innovation in transportation.
Another finding from the report was that racial minority older adults, those who speak English as a second language, and those who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid services face gaps in availability of dementia support services. These include adult day health programs, supportive housing options, or “memory cafes” (welcoming places of support for people with dementia or other memory impairments). However, there are evidence-based strategies in place to address these findings, including:
- Understand the specific needs, assets, and service gaps for cultural and linguistic minorities, and direct resources to address these disparities.
- Bring together community leaders (housing, faith communities, business, etc.) and ask them how to make their networks more age- and dementia friendly and what is needed to make progress.
The findings and recommendations covered in this report bring us closer to having more communities that are aware of and welcoming of those living with dementia and their caregivers. This report is the first step in helping identify not only the gaps, but the many resources available throughout Massachusetts.
Learn more and get involved with the Dementia Friendly Massachusetts Initiative.
Download your Community Profile to learn more about dementia rates in your community.