Supporting people living with dementia to be part of their community

People living with dementia want to be involved, supported, and included in every space in their communities. We’ve been involved in supporting people living with dementia to build local access to gardening, food, and community opportunities for many years.

Our Food Buddies project developed peer support for people with dementia and for carers living in the Scottish Borders, with a focus on aspects of food and keeping well.  A key aim was to share the experiences of the people involved in the project to raise awareness among shops, food producers and retailers on what they can do to help.

Food Buddies has made lasting impacts on local dementia-inclusive access to food support and opportunities to talk about and enjoy food. The changes include:

    • Local cafes and organisations have more knowledge and understanding around accessibility and differences in how we enjoy food as we age
    • We shared dementia-inclusive café resources, co-created with people living with dementia, older people, family and friends, carers and cafes
    • We shared tips from people living with dementia around the kinds of food support that make a difference

Linking Local is a project enabling social connections for people living with dementia and unpaid carers in Highland and North East Perthshire. We are working alongside people living with dementia and unpaid carers to:

  • Strengthen social networks through events that bring people together safely.
  • Develop resources and publicity to raise awareness and encourage people to think about different social opportunities, how to make them accessible and how to reach people.
  • Collaborate with local venues and activity providers to support them to be more dementia-friendly.
  • Connect individuals and groups across the area so people can develop more social connections.

Our hope is that people can try out some new opportunities, as well as continue to do the things they love, whatever the digital or blended options might be.

We’re hearing from small groups through our Linking Local project like the Dementia-Friendly Aberfeldy Collaborative. They have worked hard to make places and spaces more accessible by, for example, adding images and better signage for public toilets. They now feel that there are some gaps around local awareness and understanding. These smaller groups work hard to provide the practical changes but often need some extra support and resources to make the wider impact in their communities.

Garden Buddies is a community gardening project which helps older people to keep on gardening, and enjoying the positive effects that come along with it. As we get older, our relationship with gardens and gardening changes – with research suggesting it becomes even more important for wellbeing.

Garden Buddies have lots of practice in inclusive gardening. Whether it’s rain or shine, Garden Buddies meetups work to reduce loneliness and isolation. Having regular sessions and a local community garden to go to can make a big impact on how often people can get outside and make connections. As more people get involved, the gardeners encourage and empower each other more and warmly welcome new members to the garden.

With help from older people including people living with dementia we created two resources:

Gardening Tips for Older People – Individuals  a set of Tips which shares people’s suggestions and experiences, to help and encourage more older people to keep on gardening.

Gardening Tips for Older People – Groups a set of Tips for groups, community gardens and professionals to help them support older people they know and work with continue to enjoy gardening.

Changing from places which exclude to places which include is no simple task. Action, learning, and conversations need to happen in every pocket of the community. Every café, concert hall, walking path, community group, political space, choir, farm, supermarket and hairdresser has barriers for people living with dementia, and the potential to address them to create more local inclusion.

For more information about the work Outside the Box is doing to support people living with dementia feel part of and supported in their communities visit