Planning key to controlling dementia cost

A new report from the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has said that the cost of dementia care will continue to increase unless more is done to better plan local environments to enable people with dementia to live more independently.

850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK at an estimated cost of £26 billion a year to the UK economy. That figure is likely to grow as leading charities and health organisations, including the Alzheimer’s Society, warn that the number of people living with dementia is likely to rise to one million by 2025 and two million by 2051.

The Dementia and Town Planning practice note argues that local planning should play a much stronger role in creating dementia-friendly communities across the UK. Research has shown that older people and those with dementia living within walking distance from local shops and services are able to live well and remain independent for longer. Therefore, if local authorities are given more planning control, it is likely that people suffering with dementia can continue to stay in their own home for as long as possible, easing pressure on the NHS and controlling the costs for local authority social care bills.

According to the RTPI, Plymouth City Council and Brighton and Hove City Council are among the very few local authorities who have adopted plans that explicitly mention dementia.

Trudi Elliott, RTPI chief executive, said: “Careful and often small decisions on the location and design of public spaces, new housing and transport make a huge difference on our quality of life, but especially on older citizens and those living with dementia. Given the escalating scale and costs of ageing and poor health in the country, it is vital that local authorities maximise the potential of planners and good planning in supporting health and social care policies, reducing costs and improving lives.”

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, added: “The Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia states that by 2020 we would wish to see an increased number of people with dementia being able to live longer in their own homes, with a greater focus on independent living. This will be achieved only with greater support in people's own homes from trained professionals, and by improving the homes and the local environment to ensure they are as helpful and barrier-free as possible. I encourage all concerned to take the RTPI’s useful advice on board and support those with dementia to live the lives they want to.”