Dementia-Friendly Communities

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that almost 7 million people across the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2024. With the population of Americans over the age of 65 estimated to increase from 58 million in 2022 to 82 million by 2050, the need for dementia-friendly communities and initiatives has never been greater.

The dementia-friendly initiative aims for communities to come together to support the healthy living of those with dementia. Dementia-friendly communities exist across our state, our country, and our world. These types of communities are defined as “a place or culture in which people with dementia and their caregivers are empowered, supported, included in society, understand their rights, and recognize their full potential.” Across the dementia-friendly programs spanning the country and the world, there are three guiding principles that form the foundation of these types of communities:

  1. To raise awareness, which serves to decrease the stigma that often accompanies diagnosis and also contributes to building communities that are informed, safe, and respectful of those living with dementia
  2. To enable participation by empowering those with dementia to live to their fullest, both in the community and in day-to-day life
  3. To support both the individual with dementia as well as their caretakers by providing services such as memory cafés, meal assistance, and community-wide trainings

What is a memory café?
A memory café is a social gathering for both the person with dementia and their caregivers to socialize and connect with others in the community facing similar challenges. It’s a way to enjoy activities together as a break from normal routines.

The image below illustrates the essential pillars of building a dementia-friendly community:

For a city, village or town to be designated as dementia-friendly, it requires collaborative effort between those living with dementia, their caregivers, and community partners of all types. There are currently 35 communities in Illinois that have been recognized by the Dementia Friendly America network, each setting goals specific to their communities’ needs. Collaborative community participation is facilitated throughout our state via training for public safety professional, expansion of multilingual services, “no shush” movie nights, emergency bracelet programs, and much more. To read more about dementia friendly communities and to see if your town is currently dementia friendly, visit