A dementia task force in West Yorkshire has come up with 10 great ways to improve homes for people with dementia.

The list reveals how people need light, an outside area and simple safety measures so they can stay where they are happier – at home – for longer as they grow older.

The series of measures have been developed by West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin’s Dementia-Ready Housing Taskforce which was set up in March 2022 to support people living with the disease.

The West Yorkshire Housing Partnership has agreed to adopt the list for all new homes … and not just older people’s housing.

This includes personalising front doors so they are easy for people living with dementia to find, a good level of natural light in all rooms to improve wellbeing and reduce falls and appointing a dementia champion at each housing organisation to promote understanding of the disease among staff, residents and the community.

The partnership, made up of housing associations as well as Kirklees Council and Leeds City Council, will incorporate as many of the criteria in as many new developments as possible and is also looking at how to include them in existing homes.

According to government data, the number of people living with dementia could rise to two million by 2050 – double the number of people with the disease today. Dementia costs the UK £26.3 billion a year and is a significant challenge for the NHS.

For many people, staying in their own home as they age helps them live a happier, healthier life.

Mayor Brabin said: “Living with dementia shouldn’t mean losing your home, community or dignity. We want people in West Yorkshire to live happier and healthier lives, so making homes dementia-ready means as people get older they can remain independent in a supportive environment for longer.

“These simple but effective measures are testament to our work to ensure that we have high quality housing across the region that meets the needs of our people and communities.”

The 10 criteria for dementia ready housing are:

1.      A front door that is easy to find, day or night. This could be through different coloured front doors or adding other distinctive features such as wall-hung planters.

2.      Step-free access to all doors for new homes. Falls are more common for those with dementia. Without a step, people can get outside more easily.

3.      Internal decoration that avoids confusion. Dementia can change perception so bold patterns, stripes and highly contrasting floor tones may cause problems.

4.      The bathroom is easy to find. Being able to find the toilet easily, especially during the night, helps people to retain independence and dignity.

5.      Bathroom locks aid rescue. Falls in the bathroom are common and being able to get help quickly is vital. A door that can be unlocked from the outside in an emergency could save a life.

6.      A good level of natural light in all rooms. Exposure to natural light improves wellbeing and can also help to prevent falls.

7.      A view of nature in at least one habitable room. Connection with the natural environment stimulates memory and can slow down the progression of the symptoms of dementia.

8.      Access to an outdoor space that is easy to navigate. Outdoor activity helps the brain process and coordinate. It also promotes a healthy sleep pattern.

9.      Amenities and other homes within 1km. People with dementia are less likely to drive so having amenities close by is important for independence and promoting activity.

10.  An active dementia champion within the housing organisation. The champion’s role is to promote understanding of dementia among their colleagues, residents and wider community.

Helen Lennon, CEO of Connect Housing and chair of the Dementia Ready Taskforce, said: “Our partnership members will strive to include this guidance in our new developments and also when work is being carried out to our 170,000 existing homes across West Yorkshire.”

Plans for dementia-ready homes across the region were endorsed at the region’s Place, Regeneration and Housing committee on February 29. Members of the committee also approved plans for 1,119 new high quality homes across West Yorkshire.

The Combined Authority’s other work around dementia includes the Orange Wallet Travel Card scheme which gives people with communication difficulties or disabilities a subtle way of letting bus drivers know they may need extra time or help.

Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.