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2015: Is Europe becoming more dementia friendly?

Wallonia and Brussels region

Understandings of the DFC

The concept and the charter of dementia-friendly communities were developed by the Ligue Alzheimer ASBL. By becoming a dementia-friendly city, the signatory city commits to encourage the inclusion of people with dementia and their relatives in their community. The signature is a partnership between the interested city, which is sometimes already active in the field, and the Ligue Alzheimer ASBL which gives its development tools and a support for the implementation of concrete initiatives. The signature is the proof of the moral commitment of the city. For the Ligue Alzheimer ASBL, it is the completion of a prospecting and preparation work and a long-term investment.

By becoming a dementia-friendly community, the signatory commits to develop activities which contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of people with dementia and their relatives and/or carers. The charter is available to all local authorities and to the ‘Provinces’. The charter is based on five sections:

  • Awareness
  • The ‘right to be different’
  • Information and orientation services for people with dementia and their relatives
  • Actions and activities within the city
  • Consultation

There are many local initiatives for people with dementia, but they are not very well-known and therefore, not very well-used and/or accessible. However, during the “Alzheimer Café”, patients/carers/professionals mention their need for local supports close to home.  The “agent Proximité-démence”’s mission is also to encourage and look deeper into the support activities (medical, psychosocial, cultural, interpersonal, administrative, etc.). It is essential to allow to the patients and their carers to remain independent and actor of their life. The challenge is to identify the future “agent proximité-démence” who needs to be “important”, powerful, influential and motivated and to establish with him (and his colleagues), in the municipal level, a partnership of trust and a durable relation. The various cities and their different dimensions are examples to encourage the other to commit.

To facilitate the acquisition of the ‘know-how’, the Ligue Alzheimer ASBL offers training sessions (e.g. to the Agent Proxidem) and provides different documents (e.g. Plan d’Action pour une “Ville Amie Démence”) that aim to facilitate the involvement of all citizens to reach this change. This “actions plan” has been realised with the support of the Union of Walloon cities and municipalities. It has been presented to the WHO conference that took place in Liège in June 2013. The goal is to find a solution together: health professionals, people with dementia, relatives, volunteers, general public. These solutions get materialized in different activities:

  • The ‘Alzheimer Cafés’
  • The ‘Fighters’ (a peer support group of people with dementia)
  • The ‘guest homes’
  • The ‘Circles of Care’
  • The touring Conferences cycle
  • The ‘Auxiliaires de vie’ / Life assistance
  • The work between different generations
  • The artistic animations

In 2016, in Wallonia, 25 cities were working towards becoming more dementia friendly. Other signings are currently being prepared.

An example of a signatory city and its activities put in place:

Mons is a founding member of the “Ville Amie Demence” project.

  • Under the charter, Mons organises an “Alzheimer Cafés (1x per month),
  • Mons proposes medical support,
  • diagnostic center,
  • assistance and home care,
  • home day/night center
  • specialized hospital center
  • Home rest
  • disability allowance
  • social advantages
  • juridical help

Steps to build a DFC

In Wallonia and Brussels region, signatory cities are requested to appoint an “agent Proxidem” (agent Proximité-démence, similar to a local dementia officer) within the first year of becoming dementia friendly, and to organise at least one of the activities that are suggested by the Ligue Alzheimer (e.g. “Alzheimer Café”, the touring Conferences cycle, etc.). The “agent Proxidem” is a person working for the municipality and receives a three-day course training on dementia provided by the Ligue Alzheimer. The “agent” meets and supports people with dementia and their carers living in the municipality. There is a guideline “Action plan, dementia-friendly community” which provides information about the main goals of a DFC and provides details of the steps to follow (“to do list”)

Dementia-friendly symbols

A logo exists that was developed by the Ligue Alzheimer and is provided to the cities or towns that join the ViaDem (“Villes Amie de la Demence”) programme. The symbol is a skyline of a town.

Measuring and monitoring progress

The Ligue Alzheimer meets regularly with the “agent Proxidem”. These meetings provide opportunities for exchanging information and talking about the work the city is making to become more dementia friendly

Examples of DFC

The First three communities that are working towards becoming dementia friendly are: Marche, Mons and Mouscron. They started the work to become dementia friendly in 2011. In each of them, the municipality as well as la Ligue Alzheimer are involved in this work.  The project/s can seek financial support from authorities, grants, associations, etc. but the funding is not specify.

Examples of the activities developed so far include

  • In Marche: ‘Alzheimer Café’, ‘The Fighters’, ‘Carers’, Conferences cycle.
  • In Mons: ‘Alzheimer Café’, Conferences cycle, Artistic animation, Day care center, ‘Cantou’ services.
  • In Mouscron: ‘Alzheimer Café’, Discussion groups, Day care center, Conferences cycle.


Understandings of the DFC

In the Inspiration Guide ‘Dementia-friendly communities' published in 2011, the concept of dementia-friendly communities was encapsulated in 10 themes [1].  These themes include: to promote a more positive image of dementia, to increase knowledge and understanding of dementia, greater inclusion of people with dementia, more opportunities to meet with people with dementia, better contacts between generations, promote their well-being and the quality of care, more autonomy, better accessibility, a safer society, and support the mobilisation of the entire city or municipality.

The Inspiration Guide provides some examples of municipalities and cities in Flanders and elsewhere that are working to become more dementia friendly. These examples can help to understand how DFC are created, how to go from an idea to develop a project and provide tools, actions and lessons learnt from their experience.

In 2014, another Guide was published [2], and in this new guide the concept of DFC was defined as: “to empower people with dementia so that they can participate with confidence and high expectations to their surroundings”. According to the guide, to achieve this, municipalities should focus on 10 themes: 1. Involve people with dementia in the policy; 2. Avoid a negative image of dementia.  Contribute to more understanding for people with dementia; 3. Organize accessible activities; 4. Acknowledge what people with dementia can still do; 5. Promote the early detection of dementia; 6. Engage practical support so that people with dementia can engage themselves in community life; 7. Create neighbourhood-oriented solutions; 8. Organize adequate and reliable transportation options; 9. Make sure that neighbourhoods are easily accessible; 10. Facilities and services are respectful of people with dementia.

This Guide can support and inspire services and local policy makers in their work towards creating a dementia-friendly municipality. This guide is intended for representatives, mayors, officials and local merchants who want to change their vision and ideas into concrete local action around dementia and dementia-friendly policies. But it is also a guide for friends, neighbors and other people who care for people with dementia. In addition to various useful information, the guide also includes a ‘dementia monitor” and several examples of good practices from the Netherlands and beyond.

In recent years, about 50 Flemish municipalities have been working on a dementia friendly local policy. Several Flemish initiatives receive European prizes with their projects.

Steps to build a DFC

In Flanders, communities wishing to work towards becoming dementia friendly are provided with guidelines and an inventory of 21 possible actions or themes for local dementia policies. This is called a “dementia monitor”. It is expected that this information about how other communities have worked towards becoming more dementia friendly may “inspire” and guide their work.

Dementia-friendly symbols

There is no general symbol for dementia-friendly initiatives or communities. In Bruges, there is a symbol that is used and which was chosen by people with dementia themselves.

Examples of DFC

Three examples of communities that are working towards becoming dementia friendly are: Bruges; Aalbeke and Leuven. Bruges started the work to become dementia friendly in 2010, Leuven in 2011 and Aalbeke in 2014. The work to become dementia friendly has been led by Foton, the regional expertise dementia region Bruges; by the nursing home Weister in Aalbeke and by the public social welfare center of Leuven together with the city of Leuven with the support of King Baudouin Foundation.

Examples of the activities developed so far include:

  • Bruges: the King Baudouin Foundation and the local government have financially supported this work in the city of Bruges. Bruges strives to improve the quality of life of people with dementia and their environment by bringing about a mental shift of all citizens, organisations, companies, institutions and authorities to arrive at a more respectful and equal communication and interaction
  • Memory walk 'Living Memory' in dementia-friendly municipality Aalbeke
  • Leuven: project ‘Forgot to come out?’ This initiative provides opportunities for people with dementia living at home to continue to participate in mainstream social and cultural life. In Leuven, employees of the museum "M" received training to better support people with dementia during a museum visit.

[1] The guide was written in 2014, Veerle Baert from the Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities in cooperation with King Baudouin Foundation, Expertisecentrum Dementie Vlaanderen (the Expertise dementia Flanders), and Alzheimer Liga Vlaanderen (the Flemish Alzheimer’s Association).

[2] The guide was written in 2014, Veerle Baert from the Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities in cooperation with King Baudouin Foundation, Expertisecentrum Dementie Vlaanderen (the Expertise dementia Flanders), and Alzheimer Liga Vlaanderen (the Flemish Alzheimer’s Association).



Last Updated: Monday 18 July 2016


  • Acknowledgements

    This Yearbook received funding under an operating grant from the European Union’s Health Programme (2014–2020)
  • European Union