How might London venues and services be made more accessible for people with dementia?

Group of people using accessible cycles smiling and waving
14 Oct 2022

In 2022, we were funded by City Bridge Trust to look into how the experiences of people with dementia could be improved when using London arts, sports, health or well-being venues or services.

The research reports on venues and services selected by people with dementia: The Churchill Theatre, the London Zoo, the BikeWorks All Ability Cycling Club and The London Eye River Cruise.  

Partnership with local groups 

Community groups of people living with dementia in London were identified through social enterprise, Innovations in Dementia, whose DEEP project (Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project) brings together over 80 local groups of people with dementia across the UK. Participants from these groups took part in collaborative research visits to observe and make recommendations of how people with dementia might better access the venue or service.   

How might cycling initiatives like BikeWorks All-Ability Cycle Clubs be made more accessible for people with dementia? 

For Brian is a CIC that supports individuals with dementia to access exciting activities in the community such as cycling and yoga. The charity supports people with dementia on a one two one basis, and identified that for the people they work with, going out and being active is important, yet transport is often a key barrier. Together with RiDC, they decided to explore how accessible locally run BikeWorks All Ability Cycle Clubs were for people with dementia and how it could contribute to their ability to be active and mobile within their communities. 

These cycle clubs are designed for people with learning, physical and / or sensory disabilities to enjoy cycling on a range of adapted cycles. They offer a range of bikes for all abilities and after being shown the cycles, participants are free to cycle round the park with their friends, family or support worker. 

Research was undertaken in a spirit of collaboration, and participants found a number of elements which they felt made the service very accessible for people living with dementia. These included it being a drop-in service taking place at the same day and time regularly, that it offered a variety of cycles, the pick up & drop off service and it being free of charge.  Tips on how they could make it even more accessible included having extra assistive gear on hand and advertising the side-by-side taxi service that can be used. 

When one of the participants arrived at the park in the cycle taxi, she was glowing. Not only because of all the attention she received but also because it was a personal achievement. 

"I had not been on the road since I had an accident years ago." 

She even had a chat with a lorry driver while they were waiting at a traffic light. 

"I felt like the Queen!" 

Another participant had travelled from outside London to find out if accessible cycling could help them go out more with their partner again. The research makes a number of recommendations to help initiatives such as this reach more people with dementia and their carers to further enhance wellbeing, relationships and quality of life.

A checklist was also produced with tips for people with dementia and their carers to safely cycle in London with BikeWorks.

Read the report

Tips for safely cycling in London with Bikeworks


How might the Churchill Theatre in Bromley be made more accessible for people with dementia? 

The Bromley Mindcare Young Onset Dementia Activists group meet weekly to support each other and find ways to improve their communities. With this research project, they wanted to investigate ways they could assess the suitability of attending a local theatre for people with dementia, and decided to visit the Churchill Theatre to see the 'Stevie Wonder Show'. 

The scope of the visit focused on the building and its facilities as well as staff interactions. The group reported that what worked really well was the assistance of staff, interval snacks being brought to their seat instead of needing to get up and navigate the crowds and queues, being sat in advance of other theatregoers and being provided with a table in a quiet area of the restaurant. They made recommendations for improved disabled parking signage, providing more visible signage in the theatre itself, information about taxi drop off at booking and improvements to the visual guide. Overall the research concluded that the theatre was making a fantastic effort in catering for the needs of visitors with dementia and their carers. 

Carer, Veronica, said "Everything has been so inclusive, you are not aware who is a carer and who is being cared for." 

A checklist was also produced with tips for people with dementia and their carers thinking about visiting the theatre.

Read the report

Tips for visiting the theatre


How might the ZSL London Zoo be made more accessible for people with dementia? 

Great Camden Minds is facilitated by staff from Age UK Camden and Camden Carers on a monthly basis. For this research, four regular members of this group visited ZSL London Zoo and investigated how accessible it was for their needs. They looked at things like signage, wheelchair access and information provision.  

The group noticed all three routes that visitors of the Zoo could follow had some kind of accessibility challenge and choose their own route to avoid any barriers. The research introduces the idea of an accessibility route that could be especially accessible for people with dementia.   

Prior to the visit, RiDC met with ZSL London Zoo and learned The ZSL Zoo was in the process of building a Community Centre where it plans to run activities for older and more vulnerable groups regularly and foster innovative and inclusive collaborations with groups across London. They were keen to understand how findings from the research could inform ongoing efforts to understand what activities they could organise for people with dementia.  

The researchers observed that the research process itself helped participants recall different memories to the surface of how they visited the zoo in the past with family, or even when they were very young. One participant even brought old black and white pictures and shared them with staff at the zoo.  

The research emphasises the role that older people play in telling the 'heritage story' of a place in London like the Zoo and suggested specific improvements to make the zoo more accessible to older people in general. 

A checklist was also produced with tips for people with dementia and their carers who would like visit ZSL London Zoo.

Read the report

Tips for visiting the Zoo


How might the London Eye River Cruise be made more accessible for people with dementia? 

Ashford Place is a charity specialising in providing practical solutions and support for people with dementia and offers access to professional advice to their carers. The research was welcomed by the group with much enthusiasm, because participants shared it was quite difficult to organise a day out in London individually. When asking the group what they would like to do most, several group members expressed how it had been a long time since they were last on a boat 

Together, they looked at aspects such as boarding the boat and the accessibility of the cruise guide commentary, but also things like navigating the busy Southbank area. The research makes recommendations not only to further improve accessibility of the cruise experience, but also for those with dementia who would like to make a similar trip. For instance, researchers noticed that interactive prompts were a really nice way to get everyone to participate and enjoy the moment, for instance when those aboard were asked to wave at people on the shore as they passed below a bridge. 

“It was really funny. That made it for me, listening to him [commentator]. The boat was lovely, lovely and clean, nice and bright. I loved it, loved it, all of it"  

A checklist was also produced with tips for people with dementia and their carers taking a London River Cruise.

Read the report

Tips for taking a London River Cruise