Working together for a dementia-friendly future

Forget-me-nots in the garden at Peckover House, Cambridgeshire

In 2019, we launched an ambitious three-year partnership with Alzheimer’s Society to make all of our 500 historic and countryside sites dementia-friendly.

In the largest collaboration of its kind bringing heritage and dementia together, we joined forces to unlock some of the nation’s best-loved history and heritage for millions of people affected by dementia.

We had to pause this programme during the pandemic, but we're now beginning to refresh our intentions and we'll have more to share on our partnership and dementia-friendly activity soon.

The power of historic connections

For people with dementia and their carers, historic spaces, collections and stories can prompt and stimulate discussion, encourage outdoor exploration, and offer a vital connection to the world around them. 

Research from Alzheimer’s Society shows that day trips are one of the most likely and regular activities for people living with the condition and their carers. In comparison to other visitor attractions, people living with dementia also view heritage sites as ‘safe’ and familiar spaces*.

" Visiting a heritage site can improve physical and mental health by helping people keep active. The importance of such venues increases as we get older, as a place to relax, recover and engage through multi-sensory stimulation of the space around us. "
- Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society’s Chief Executive

How we're working together

Our partnership will focus on:

  • Upskilling our staff and volunteers
  • Improving the accessibility of our sites for all visitors
  • Improving internal policies and processes to support members of staff and volunteers who may be affected by the condition

It will also see improvements at some of our places, from improved signage, facilities and modifications to materials used on paths and car parks. We’ll also be developing a range of dementia-friendly services such as cafés, tours and social events. Hosting awareness-raising activities and making improvements for those living with the disease will also build the case for more dementia-friendly communities.

" A number of our places are already offering great experiences for people living with dementia, and through this landmark partnership we aim to extend those benefits to many more people."
- Tiger de Souza, National Trust Volunteering and Inclusion Director

Among the work already underway to support those with dementia is the creation of reminiscence experience sessions at the Backs to Backs in Birmingham which offer monthly tours of the historic houses to recreate what life was like for families in gone-by years. Wimpole in Cambridge also hosts the Farming Memories group, which encourages former farmers and agricultural workers with dementia to meet up and take part in farming activities.

A growing impact

Research from Alzheimer’s Society shows that 1 in every 14 people in the UK aged 65 and over have dementia**, with someone developing the condition every three minutes.

There are currently 850,000 people in the UK with dementia and Alzheimer’s Society predict that those living with the disease will hit one million within three years. 

* This emerged from interviews conducted as part of the study by Page, S.J., Innes, A. and Cutler, C. (2015) Developing Dementia-Friendly Tourism Desinations: An Exploratory Analysis. Journal of Travel Research. 54 (4) pp. 461-81.

**1 in 14 stat – Dementia UK: Update, Prince et al (2014), for Alzheimer’s Society.