Interface and Life Changes Trust held an event at the beginning of September on Dementia Friendly Tourism to explore this developing market for tourism businesses and showcase the insight, expertise and services Scottish universities can provide to address the opportunities identified.  

There are currently 90,000 people in Scotland living with dementia, with many different experiences of what a dementia diagnosis looks like and how it affects them.  Many of those with early onset are still young and looking to remain active, for others the discussion of past activities, events and experiences have been shown to have beneficial effects for people with dementia and their carers. 

Interface facilitates collaborative partnerships between academia and all industry sectors, including charity, social enterprise and 3rd sectors. The Life Changes Trust works with people living with dementia and those who care for them, investing resources so that individuals are more able to face the challenges ahead and can exercise more choice and control in their own lives.

50 delegates attended with a good cross section from across tourism providers, service providers, public sector representatives, innovators in products and services as well as academics specialising in dementia, so there was an inordinate amount of knowledge and expertise in the room.  As well as those looking to improve their own approaches and share knowledge, there was a strong feeling around educating, developing and acting on research, innovating and scaling up the great work already being done by some to become incorporated as the norm in everyday life.

With over 200,000 people working in the tourism sector in Scotland and 25 million visitors to accredited tourism attractions, this is an important sector where being inclusive to all will not only have positive societal impacts and benefits but also a financial impact for Scotland. There were common challenges around educating and upskilling staff across all types of organisations, not just those working with the public but also in the design, layout, communications, signage and having a general awareness of what inclusivity and accessibility mean not just for people living with dementia but for their families and carers.   

There were discussion and interest around developing dementia friendly guides, directories and manuals to improve the flow of information and communications between those actively working towards being dementia friendly and more inclusive to all, but also for those wanting to visit places and have assurances about what to expect.   From an academic perspective, those attending are continuing to carry out invaluable research with people living with dementia, providing world-class facilities and expertise which will further inform policy and drive innovation in this area.  Many potential opportunities were highlighted, particularly around technology and its application and take up with those living with dementia.

The feedback and opportunities taken from the event are currently being disseminated and activity with various organisations will begin to take shape over the coming months. The appetite to make Scotland as accessible and inclusive to all not just in tourism but across society, in general, was resounding and we feel this is the beginning of many worthwhile collaborations.

For more information on Interface’s work in this area please contact info@interface-online.org.uk

20 September 2018