Research looks at making London venues more accessible for people with dementia

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

Research released by RiDC today and funded by City Bridge Trust looks at how the experiences of people with dementia could be improved when using London arts, sports, health or wellbeing venues and 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.

Each venue or service had a research title for the visit:

BikeWorks All-Ability Cycle Club, Wormwood Scrubs Park: How might cycling initiatives 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 group leader identified that for the people they work with, going out and being active is important, yet transport is often a key barrier. RiDC thus decided to explore how accessible the BikeWorks All Ability Cycle Club was 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 even further.

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!"

The report concludes with the recommendation that this initiative spreads across London and even UK-wide to further enhance wellbeing, relationships and quality of life for those with dementia and their carers.


Churchill Theatre, Bromley: How might local venues 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."


ZSL London Zoo: How might local venues be made more accessible for people with dementia?

Great Camden Minds is facilitated by staff from Age UK Camden and Camden Carers and runs on a monthly basis. After discussion with the RiDC research team, members decided that they wanted to investigate the suitability of visiting a zoo for people with dementia.

During the visit the group made various observations including that it would be more accessible to provide paper maps for those who need them (they found they used up lots of energy trying to establish where to go or walking in the wrong direction initially), more staff to actively engage with disabled and older visitors and an 'accessible' route to follow created alongside others.

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. 

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"  

Research participant


Read the four research reports here:

BikeWorks All Ability Cycle Club

Churchill Theatre

ZSL London Zoo

London Eye River Cruise