Monday 18th June 2018

Scotland’s first ever dementia-friendly park has been launched in Stirling. Kings Park, one of the city’s most popular recreational areas, has been transformed to make it more accessible and allow people with dementia to enjoy and feel safe in outdoor spaces. New measures include a handrail, improved toilet signs and benches. An information leaflet with a map has also been created to help with route-planning.

The initiative, spearheaded by the walking charity Paths for All, aims to encourage more people to get outside. Research shows both exercise and being outside in nature have multiple health benefits. These include relieving stress, increasing self-esteem, improving sleep and aiding memory and cognitive function. Even 10 minutes of daily walking can improve the overall well-being of dementia sufferers.

The improvements at Kings Park have been brought in after consultation with local residents, carers and people living with the condition. Dr Corinne Greasley Adams, development officer for Paths for All, said: “This project was an important step for us in working towards our aim of driving improvements in the quality of life, well-being, empowerment and inclusion of people living with dementia in Scotland.“We listened to the local community and were able to respond and make change happen. “The experience for all visitors to Kings Park will be improved by the installation of a handrail on a steep section of the path, dementia-friendly toilet signage and new benches, which will provide rest points on long sections of the path. “With these changes we hope to spread the message that anybody can enjoy walking activities.”

Estimates suggest around 90,000 people in Scotland have been diagnosed with dementia, most of them aged 65 and over. That number is expected to double over the next 25 years as the population ages. The charity Alzheimer Scotland estimates that the costs associated with dementia are £1.7 billion per annum. Care and treatment services provided by the NHS and local government account for around £700 million of that. The remainder is borne by carers.

“Making our parks and public spaces more inclusive for people living with dementia to improve their physical, social and mental health is so important,” said Scottish mental health minister Maureen Watt. “There has been a lot of work in recent years across Scotland to build dementia-friendly and dementia-enabled communities, through local partnerships and committed grass-roots work, and we want to see all communities becoming dementia-friendly. “The Kings Park project shows what can be done to help make our communities and green spaces more accessible and inclusive for people with dementia.”

Paths for All received £15,000 from the William Grant Foundation in partnership with the Life Changes Trust to fund the work. A further £6,000 came from Stirling Council. The local authority has also made further upgrades, including resurfacing paths around the perimeter of the park. Stirling Council provost Christine Simpson said: “I am delighted to support this important initiative, which will bring pleasure, relaxation and increased well-being to our Stirling residents. “This is particularly important for people living with dementia and their carers as many of the improvements have been specially designed to enhance their access and quality of life.”

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