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Dementia-Friendly Communities

Advancing pioneering understanding of leadership within local communities to become more inclusive and supportive of persons living with dementia and their care partners

Improving Localities for Aging with Dementia

Most people living with dementia are aging in their own homes and communities. A global movement calls for action to make communities more inclusive and supportive for individuals and families on their dementia journeys. Our research has focused on the role of local senior centers in dementia-friendly community (DFC) work, with implications for DFC program theory more broadly.

About the Research Project

In light of little empirical study of deliberate, systematic, and multisector efforts to address aging with dementia in the context of communities, our primary project aim was to understand the practices of local community leaders who are translating DFC aspirations into action. We received to a research grant from the Alzheimer’s Association (PI: Dr. Emily Greenfield) to conduct a study toward this aim.

In 2021, we conducted in-depth interviews with individuals representing 19 DFC initiatives in Massachusetts. We conducted our study in Massachusetts given that this state is one of the very few in the United States with a statewide network of DFC initiatives. This statewide network—Dementia Friendly Massachusetts (as backboned by the Massachusetts Council on Aging)—provided a ready organizational partner for conducting a pioneering study that centers the voices of local DFC leaders across diverse community contexts.

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Our DFC Practice

As part of the Rutgers Hub for Aging Collaboration, we both work to collaboratively expand our understanding of DFC initiatives and to directly engage in the work of advancing DFC efforts. We have engaged in DFC practice through university-community partnerships with DFC leaders in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and beyond.

Dementia Friendly Massachusetts

Our team attended monthly meetings of the Dementia Friendly Statewide Leadership Team of Massachusetts. As university-based partners, we learned with and from this cross-sectoral team, gaining important background understanding of state-level efforts concerning DFC work at the local level, as well as contributing insights from our own research and understanding of the field. At the end of 2021, we transitioned our role on the team to Massachusetts-based academic colleagues for long-term sustainability considerations.

Bergen County’s Dementia-Friendly Initiative

Our team members have become involved with a dementia-friendly initiative in Bergen County. Bergen County is one of the largest counties in New Jersey and the first in New Jersey to be accepted into the Dementia Friendly America network. We actively participate in monthly meetings of the action team, as well as the assessment workgroup.

Other Partnerships

As an extension of this project, we have forged additional connections with the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater New Jersey. For example, we partnered on a dementia-friendly presentation at the 2022 New Jersey Age-Friendly Virtual Fair (video recording available here). Team members also attend meetings of the national Advisory Council for Dementia Friendly America, administered by USAging.

Learn More About Our Work

Browse each card to learn more about findings from this project. For a full list of publications, click here.

Peer-Reviewed Publications 

Organizational Characteristics of Senior Centers and Engagement in Dementia-Friendly Communities.

This study explores how the organizational characteristics of senior centers influence their engagement in DFC initiatives. Results indicate the importance of policy and practice to foster both organizational capacity and multi-level systems conditions to enable and motivate senior centers’ involvement in DFC initiatives.

Variation in Implementing Dementia-Friendly Community Initiatives: Advancing Theory for Social Change.

This study contributes to a nascent body of research on DFC initiatives by building theory on their local implementation. Our findings suggest the importance of helping DFC initiative leaders more explicitly specify the focal ecological level of their efforts throughout the trajectory of their work, especially in the context of resource considerations.

Evaluation Reports

Dementia-Friendly Community Initiatives: Voices from Practice Leaders in Massachusetts.

This report summarizes findings from a research project conducted in 2021 to understand the development and implementation of DFC initiatives in Massachusetts. Topics include influences on getting the DFC initiative started, focal activities, DFC initiative structure, action teams, connections with state and regional organizations, challenges and opportunities during COVID-19, and hopes for the future.

Contact the Dementia-Friendly Research Team

Reach out to the Dementia-Friendly Research Team if you are interested in learning more about our work or collaborating on future projects.