Dementia Inclusion:
examples from the field

Excitement. Energy. Engagement

These three words describe the 4.5 months of the Lifelong Communities - UMaine Center on Aging partnership with UNE and AgingME GWEP to increase awareness and programming that is inclusive of individuals living with dementia, their care partners, family, and friends.  As reported last month, Lifelong Communities embraced this idea as being part of the work they are already doing in communities to ensure that every resident is included, involved, and able to live safely and comfortably in their community of choice.


Age-Friendly, Lifelong Communities are experienced at utilizing “quick wins” to build community capacity. We get genuinely excited about the opportunity to engage volunteers, community partners, and municipal leaders in short action pilot programs because completing a project quickly, with real results excites volunteers, partners, and our community. 


As trusted community partners, Lifelong Communities built on the initial excitement generated by the Pathways to Well-Being with Dementia, and additional dementia inclusive resources to develop and implement a wide range of projects. 


Perhaps the most impactful outcome of the past 4 months is the incredible engagement of our Lifelong Communities AND their community partners. Our communities are reporting collaborations with: municipalities, first responders, community service organizations, community centers, schools, historical societies, museums, and neighboring age-friendly initiatives. These partnerships have expanded the impact of Lifelong Communities and Dementia Inclusion locally as well as statewide! 

Here are a few snapshots of the many dementia inclusive projects completed by Maine communities:  

The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum partnered with the age-friendly team in the Bethel area to develop museum-themed and historical memory kits. 

Age-Friendly Community Initiative, Bethel Region - The Maine Mineral and Gem museum took the lead on this age-friendly project. In collaboration with Age-Friendly Community Initiative, the Bethel Library Association, the Bethel Historical Society and the Bethel United Methodist Church, this pilot project is a true community collaboration! Initially two memory/activity kits at two levels of complexity containing museum and historical themed activities intended to educate, engage and to spark memories and conversation were created. Included will be a notebook that will stay with the kit to share a memory or comments. These kits will be on loan at the Bethel Library and will be adjusted as needed.

Complimentary materials such as a Pathways to Well Being With Dementia flyer, Thriving as We Age trifold and Dementia Inclusion trifold will also be made available at their informational kiosk. Bethel will launch the kits and kiosk materials at a museum/library meeting September 19th. There will be an additional opportunity at the Bethel Seniors meeting on October 11th. Chrys Snogren of the Maine Mineral Museum states “The aim for both being -- to raise awareness for Dementia Inclusivity and this collaborative project.”

What we love about this approach:  Lifelong Community initiatives such as Age-Friendly Community Initiative (AFCI) often have a lot of logs in the fire already when projects like this come up.  Thanks to AFCI’s long history of collaboration within the Bethel region, they had partners such as the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum who were comfortable stepping up and taking the lead.  This meant the community was still able to benefit from the dementia inclusive micro-grant and resources such as the informational flyers that were provided through the Lifelong Communities Program.

The team in Bucksport developed kits for care partners as well as for people with dementia. In a recent update, Vanessa shared that the care partner kits are very popular. 

Age and Ability-Friendly Bucksport  - Bucksport Bay Healthy Communities Coalition and the Age and Ability-Friendly Committee collaborated with the Buck Memorial Library to create 6 dementia inclusive kits - three Memory kits and three Caregiver kits. Their local supermarket and a former gift store owner also contributed donated items so that anyone borrowing a kit receives some “treats” that will be replenished when the kits are returned. The Bucksport Community Center has been an integral part of sharing news and information about the resources that are available and will hold a community information session in November to keep awareness high. Vanessa Newman, Age and Ability Friendly Bucksport Chair, reports, “The one-on-one conversations we have had with individuals at the Bay Festival and with those checking out the kits have shed light on how prevalent concerns about memory loss are among all ages.” 

What we love about this approach:  The many community partners involved that helped expand the project, the thought given to care partners as well as those living with a cognitive impairment, and the on-going programming which will continue increasing awareness in Bucksport! 

Anna Stolt, Age-Friendly Chelsea's Summer Intern, reading Sometimes Even Elephants Forget to children at the Chelsea Elementary School Library. 

Age-Friendly Chelsea - Among other projects, Age-Friendly Chelsea built on the success of their intergenerational reading program, The Reading Connection, to launch a conversation about dementia with children in the community. After listening to the story, Sometimes Even Elephants Forget, the children were asked who had grandparents that sometimes-forgot things? Almost every hand went up. They were then asked what they learned from the story. One child said, “it was okay to forget things.” 

What we love about this approach:  Building on existing programming can make it easier to get things done. The partnership with the school is one of many that the team used to promote dementia inclusion.

In Cumberland and North Yarmouth, memory kits are available through the Prince Memorial Library in Cumberland. They were organized by Cumberland Active 55+ and Living Well in North Yarmouth in partnership with the library. 

Active Living 55+ Cumberland and Living Well in North Yarmouth -

Working together with the Prince Memorial Library, the group created 4 Memory Kits using the themes; Music, Sports, Touch & Tie (dexterity) and Games. Each have an activity card and a conversation card that fit the theme. Kits are meant to encourage conversation, interaction, and fun for those living with dementia and care partners through games, books, instruments, and sensory products. Active Living 55+ Cumberland Chair Devon Galvan said, “a point of pride was how quickly this project came together and how well we all worked together. These kits will impact both communities in a positive way and are a step toward creating dementia friendly communities as they promote social inclusion for people living with dementia or memory loss while raising awareness and reducing stigma.”

What we love about this approach: Working together helps break down the “silos” that can be created in neighboring towns while increasing the project's impact. Additionally, many hands make light work and prevents duplication of services.

New signage at a pavilion in downtown Danforth will spark conversation about the town's past. 

Danforth Livable Communities - Danforth Livable Community's dementia inclusion project was an addition to one of the committee's previous projects - the construction of an open-air pavilion. Historically, the site of the new pavilion housed several businesses frequented by Danforth's older generation. Over the years, the properties deteriorated and were torn down, leaving a blank space. The deterioration of the area was upsetting to many and often disorienting for those living with memory related changes. The new signage can be easily read by people with vision loss, including people living with dementia. An added bonus is that the signs will spark conversation and memories while people enjoy a familiar outdoor, community setting! 

What we love about this approach: Making the physical environment more accessible and building on community memories is welcoming for all residents and will encourage people living with dementia to rest, enjoy time with others, and talk about the history of their town. Additionally, we love how this project built on another one already underway in Danforth.

To mark the end of the raised bed garden season, Age-Friendly Dover Foxcroft, with the help of the Small Space Gardening group, will host a gratitude event at the garden, followed by an Italian-themed dinner open to the community. 

Age-Friendly Dover-Foxcroft - Age-Friendly Dover-Foxcroft created a community garden with several raised garden beds planted with a combination of plants and vegetables, rain barrels, wind chimes, in an easily accessible area.  The energy and donations for this project allowed them to create a garden to delight all the senses and help those living with cognitive changes to recreate memories or create new ones. The property is owned by the town and the age-friendly team had donations of lumber, soil, seeds, wind chimes and more!  Tami Cox, Age-Friendly Dover Foxcroft Chair said, “We have had some successes where we have had people using the produce grown in the garden. It was perfect for accessibility for future programming and our senior luncheons”.  

What we love about this approach: Great collaboration with the Town. Wonderful donations through community partners expanded the impact of the micro-grant.  A Garden Party and dinner are creative ways to celebrate the program.

Age-Friendly Eliot is looking forward to hosting another community conversation at Eliot Festival Day. The team will bring games and activities for people to try. Their goal is for residents living with dementia to have social opportunties to function at their highest level while finding joy, purpose, and meaning. 

Age-Friendly Eliot - Among other projects, two trained Age-Friendly Eliot volunteers provided an hour-long in-service program based on the First Responders and Care Partners GWEP-REACH video. It highlighted the basics of dementia, communication tips, supportive interventions, and critical thinking strategies. In the discussion that followed, the eight officers who participated shared their stories of residents here who are living with dementia; how they connected them and their families to resources; and how they continue to keep an eye on them. These officers recognize the increased prevalence of dementia and the value of focusing on this specific population. They expressed great concern for care partners and shared examples of care partners’ stress. During the training, Age-Friendly Eliot learned that the town has a police social worker who is shared with the towns of Kittery and York and funded by York Community Action Corporation. He just happens to have experience in working with people living with dementia! 

What we love about this approach: Strong collaboration with first responders that proved Age-Friendly Eliot is a trusted source of information. 

Dr. Susan Wehry presented to a standing room only crowd at the Cumston Library in Monmouth.

Age-Friendly Monmouth, Age-Friendly Readfield, Age-Friendly Greene 

Three neighboring lifelong communities partnered through their local libraries to host Dr. Susan Wehry and Grace Simonson, OS II in Monmouth, Readfield, and Green. The three presentations were all made in one day!  Susan and Grace traveled through the mid-coast with Lifelong Communities Fellow Mary Beth Paquette and presented their topic “Brain Health” to a total of 58 participants in the three communities! Wow! According to Mary Beth, the feedback received from all three events was so positive and the discussion so rich that Dr Wehry and Grace have agreed to visit additional communities.  Efforts are underway in four nearby communities to host similar events in November. The libraries and age-friendly initiatives said “We are so very grateful for the opportunity to inform our neighbors about dementia and to alleviate some fear around it.” 

What we love about this approach:  Partnering with a neighboring community, this approach made use of the wonderful resource offered through AgingME GWEP, the opportunity to host Dr Wehry and Grace Simonson, by working together and coordinating 3 events in one day!

Age-Friendly Portland garden volunteers planting and preparing the beds.

Age-Friendly Portland - Age-Friendly Portland created two large raised garden bed gardens at a dementia-specific adult day center in the City. Staff, older volunteers, and program attendees worked together to lovingly tend the gardens - from planting seeds to harvesting the vegetable and flowers. Gardening is a very tactile and immersive activity that can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of memory impairment or other cognitive challenges. Age-Friendly Portland was pleasantly surprised to discover some new green thumbs happy to volunteer to maintain the gardens!

What we love about this approach: Creating an opportunity for residents to enjoy an activity with family care partners and friends while also using all of their senses. We also love the opportunity for people to embrace the aspect of home gardening they love best--from planting to eating or smelling the flowers!

Age-Friendly Richmond hosted a game night for anyone interested in field testing the dementia inclusive games and activity kits. 

Age-Friendly Richmond - The Richmond Area Senior Center is at the heart of Age-Friendly Richmond. Understanding that games are the primary way residents socialize, the age-friendly group purchased several dementia friendly interactive games for the Center. Additionally, an interactive activity backpack was donated to Umberhine Library for folks to check out at their own pace. As the quest for more information grew, the Senior Center held a "Lunch & Learn" with guest speaker, Carol Norris from the Alzheimer's Association. Laurie Saunders, Age-Friendly Richmond Chair said, “Turnout was fabulous with many different folks from throughout the Community in attendance. Lots of questions and great information was exchanged. This program opened up a new dialog within our community.”

What we love about this approach: Building on an approach that is shown to work by purchasing games but also increasing inclusion by making an activity backpack available for checkout through the library.  Also increasing inclusion and awareness broadly with a community dialogue and knowledgeable speaker.

Age-Friendly Sullivan emphasized public awareness--through articles in the Town Crier, Town Website, and Facebook page.

Age-Friendly Sullivan - Frenchman's Bay Library and Age-Friendly Sullivan have been long-term partners (since AFS inception). It was a natural collaboration to inform the community about availabe resources, books, videos, and educational opportunities by creating a Dementia Inclusion kiosk at the Library. The kiosk includes 23 books, numerous pamphlets, activity boxes (jigsaw puzzles, match games, I-Spy game, building blocks, activity books, etc). 

To get word out about new resources and local opportunities for dementia adventures, Age-Friendly Sullivan asked the Town of Sullivan to add a resource page to the Town's website, titled "Dementia Inclusion Downeast", and started a FaceBook page of the same name with additional resources. 

What we love about this approach: Building on strong partnerships and including resources and information that people can access from their own home. We especially love that the Dementia Inclusion Downeast FB page has great information and ideas for people anywhere in Maine (and even beyond!). 

Libraries across the State. Recognizing the central role of community libraries to bring residents together, many of the projects developed activity or memory kits available to borrow and added fiction and information books to support people living with dementia and care partners. The message from the libraries to the communities is clear: "the public library is a place of connection and understanding - for all community members, at every one of life’s stages". Dementia Inclusive Library Guide

An assortment of resources for people living with dementia, family, and friends is readily available at the Julie Adams Morse Memorial Library in Greene.

Living Well in Madison developed activity and memory kits that include seasonal word searches that are easy to read. 

Age-Friendly Scarborough included fidget quilts among the resource available to borrow.