Memory Matters’ Dementia-Friendly Community

Purple Angel enhances the quality of life for everyone who calls the Lowcountry home. Because people aged 65 and older make up the largest number of households in greater Bluffton/Hilton Head Island region, the concept of a “dementia-friendly community” is crucial. This growing movement reminds society that people with dementia have the same rights as everyone else:

  • to be treated with dignity and respect
  • to lead independent lives
  • to continue to be active citizens in our community

The development of dementia-friendly communities stresses the need to tackle the stigma, exclusion, loneliness, and lack of control and empowerment that those with dementia experience in their neighborhoods.

The rationale for creating dementia-friendly communities comes from the voices and experiences of people living with and affected by the condition. It is about ensuring that people with dementia are empowered to live well, and are able to exert choice and control in their lives.

Importantly, it recognizes the impact that dementia has on relationships and people’s confidence to engage in daily tasks and activities. These all have a profound impact on a person’s quality of life affecting not only the individual but also their caregivers and families. Improving the wellbeing of every individual with dementia is of paramount importance in this work.

A dementia-friendly designation typically refers to a community that takes deliberate, coordinated and ongoing action to enable people with memory loss to feel safe in a community. That means everything from easy access to local establishments such as banks and shops to ensuring that social networks can be maintained.

A dementia-friendly community should be a place where there is increased awareness that dementia is a disease that touches the lives of many, and requires community-based solutions. Our communities need to explore how local mainstream services and facilities can be made more accessible for people with dementia.

We envision a community where residents are fully educated about dementia, business owners are trained on how to assist customers with memory loss, and people with dementia remain independent for as long as possible.

The Purple Angel Project offers local businesses free, on-site training for employees. Once a business is trained, a decal will be provided to display in their window to let their customers know that their establishment is a safe and welcoming place of business for those with dementia.

Making the economic case for dementia-friendly communities

Even in the early stages of developing a dementia-friendly community, there are clear economic benefits. For example, supporting people to live independently and safely in their own homes will lead to less time needed in more-expensive venues for care.

In addition, if these families feel welcomed and supported by local businesses and the community, they will continue to try to normalize their lives by eating out, shopping, going to shows, and patronizing businesses -- and that is good for our Lowcountry economy.

Hilton Head Island and Bluffton are a Mecca for tourists, with our economy heavily reliant upon tourism to support our infrastructure. As a dementia-friendly community, visitors who might be reluctant to continue travelling because of their loved one’s dementia will now be able to visit a safe community that supports them.