Adapting tourist attractions to become dementia-friendly

In 2015, the Prime Minister's Challenge on Dementia 2020 called on businesses to become more dementia friendly. People living with dementia can enjoy days out, but attractions need some adaptation to make the experience pleasant.

Collaborative research between Professor Stephen Page at the university of Hertfordshire and Professor Joanne Connell at the University of Exeter set out to explore the nature and extent of dementia awareness in tourism businesses. They found six stages of dementia awareness and knowledge.

  1. Ignoring the problem
  2. Some awareness
  3. Building a dementia-friendly infrastructure
  4. Advocacy for dementia
  5. Policies, plans and strategies
  6. Normalisation

Most tourist destinations were stuck at stages one and two and none had reached stage four.

Managers believed that cost and the lack of time and expertise were barriers to becoming dementia friendly. Where initiatives existed, they were not well informed. Frontline staff were usually unaware of common the signs of dementia. Websites typically had only generic accessibility information reached via search boxes not dedicated pages.

From their findings Page and Connell wrote a report, Making the UK visitor economy more dementia-friendly: lessons from the visitor attraction sector, outlining the issues and how to tackle them. This led to an invitation from Historic Royal Palaces (HRP); (Hampton Court, the Tower of London etc), to co-produce a guide specifically for heritage sector managers; Rethinking Heritage: A guide to help make your site more dementia-friendly. It informs managers about dementia-friendliness: what it means, what staff need to know for various roles, and how to incorporate the principles into every area of an organisation. It has been successfully implemented by HRP across their six sites.

Page and Connell’s research has also informed policy and practice at The National Trust, staff training at Dartmoor National Park, and been used by VisitEngland, VisitScotland, and Alzheimer’s Society.


Further reading