Dementia-inclusive planning and design guidelines

A new guide on how neighbourhoods can support people living with dementia, created by Happy Cities and researchers from Simon Fraser University.

colourful isometric line diagram showing a dementia-friendly street corner and path. there is a community centre, safe streets, and a green open space with walking path, trees, benches, games, placemaking, and more.
Dementia-friendly communities can boost wellbeing for everyone. (Happy Cities)

Why should we design dementia-friendly communities?

People living with dementia have specific needs in navigating their neighbourhoods, which are often not captured by broader age-friendly design guidelines. Globally, at least 50 million people live with dementia—a number that is expected to triple by 2050.

Happy Cities collaborated with researchers at Simon Fraser University to create new Dementia-inclusive Planning and Design Guidelines that municipalities, developers, and community organizations can use to support people living with dementia through the built environment. These planning and design strategies have the power to improve urban environments and wellbeing for all community members by boosting comfort, safety, inclusion, and sense of place.

Neighbourhoods can be designed to boost health and wellbeing for everyone.

Dementia-friendly communities benefit everyone. Through planning and design, we can support essential aspects of healthy living and wellbeing, including mobility, physical activity, social connection, independence, a sense of belonging, and access to transit, shops, and services.

However, there are specific design considerations that are unique for people living with dementia. For example, due to cognitive decline and sensory changes, people living with dementia can experience difficulties finding their way around the neighbourhood, understanding their surroundings, and accessing local destinations. 

If the neighbourhood does not meet their needs, people living with dementia may spend less time outside the home, which can lead to lower cognitive, mental, and physical health—and social isolation. Dementia-friendly neighbourhoods ensure that people living with dementia can maintain connections to their community, and feel welcome, included, safe, and comfortable in public spaces. Through intentional design, communities can help raise awareness and education around living with dementia, building more inclusive cities for everyone.

About the Guidelines

This document is the first of its kind in Canada to offer a comprehensive set of Dementia-inclusive Planning and Design Guidelines, focused on improving the neighbourhood built environment for people living with dementia. Happy Cities created this document in collaboration with the DemSCAPE project, led by Dr. Habib Chaudhury, gerontology professor at SFU. 

The Guidelines are broken down into three design realms, organizing key strategies and actions by neighbourhood, street, and detailed design scales.

isometric line illustration showing "Design realms for dementia-friendly communities", with three realms illustrated: 1) Neighbourhood scale, 2) Street scale, 3) Detailed design scale
Design realms for dementia-friendly communities. (Happy Cities)

We invite you to explore and download the Guidelines below:

We’re here to help

Want to learn more about how your municipality can implement these Guidelines? We’d love to connect! Please contact us at info@happycities.com.

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