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Tufts report: Statewide efforts needed for dementia-friendly communities

August 7, 2017
by PR Newswire
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The Tufts Health Plan Foundation has released its Report on Demographics, Programs, and Services for an Age- and Dementia-Friendly Commonwealth: What We Have and What We Need, documenting and assessing the supports and services available in Massachusetts for older adults. The report provides a comprehensive look at the current activities and resources in place to support older populations and those living with dementia and their caregivers.

The report offers recommendations for building age- and dementia-friendly communities, identifies gaps in resources for this growing population and includes strategies to increase those supports.

"One of the recommendations in the report is to be deliberate in coordinating efforts between age-friendly and dementia-friendly initiatives," said Nora Moreno Cargie, president of Tufts Health Plan Foundation and vice president for corporate citizenship for Tufts Health Plan. "By working together, we are stronger in providing what communities need." Moreno Cargie was recently named to the first Governor's Council to Address Aging in Massachusetts.

By 2030, more than one-quarter of New England residents will be 60 years or older. Life expectancy for most adults has gone up almost 30 years since the 1900s. This longevity bonus creates exciting opportunities and significant challenges for individuals and the Commonwealth in general. One of the most significant age-related conditions is dementia. The statewide dementia rate for adults age 65 and older is 14 percent, with the rate in some Massachusetts communities exceeding 20 percent.

An important first step to supporting dementia-friendly communities is to assess and promote existing support services, while simultaneously raising awareness of the areas that don't have services. People living with dementia and their caregivers can commonly feel lonely and isolated, so access to support services like memory cafes and adult day programs is critical.

"Our aim is to not 'reinvent the wheel,' but to facilitate and accelerate progress in making Massachusetts a great place to grow up and grow old," said lead investigator Elizabeth Dugan, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts Boston Gerontology Institute.

Some of the key findings noted in the report include:

  • Most community stakeholders do not understand the scope of the problem (i.e., prevalence of dementia in their community).
  • Much of the state lacks basic dementia-friendly services and supports (e.g., adult day health programs, support groups, assisted living facilities with dementia care units). On a per capita basis, even densely populated areas (e.g., Boston) are underserved.  
  • For vulnerable populations across the state (such as older adults living alone, racial minorities, those who speak English as a second language or those dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid) the need for services and supports is pronounced.

These findings can help stakeholders understand and identify assets and services – including those that already exist, and those that are lacking – to create more welcoming and supportive communities for people living with dementia and their caregivers.

Report recommendations also include:

  • Increasing awareness of the dementia prevalence rates and trends.
  • Developing and disseminating toolkits and resources on building age- and dementia-friendly communities.
  • Targeting underserved communities to help build their capacity for dementia-friendly work.

To read the full report, visit http://mahealthyagingcollaborative.org/age-friendly/dfaf-report

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