The availability of transportation is a critical factor for enabling community participation. For many persons with dementia, driving is still the primary method of transportation. Persons with dementia are able to drive safely as long as they are able to use their visuospatial skills effectively. Their judgment regarding what other drivers are doing, attention to road signs and responses may not be affected by dementia. Some persons with dementia limit their driving to familiar places, or during daytime or only in good weather.  

Giving up the driving license is a decision influenced by many factors. In some countries, persons with dementia are required to notify vehicle licensing agencies about their diagnosis and undergo an assessment each year. When the licensing authorities and doctors come to a conclusion that it is no longer safe for the person with dementia to drive, she will need to give up the driving license. Some persons with dementia willingly give up their license when they no longer feel confident to drive and start using public transit.       


Making public transit dementia-friendly is the need of the hour. Two out of every three persons with dementia use public transportation. This has encouraged communities to develop dementia-friendly public transit systems. A dementia-friendly public transportation system enables people to age in place. A tight collaboration between transportation authorities, volunteer organizations, caregivers and persons with dementia leads to transforming the existing transit systems into dementia-friendly transit systems.


While developing dementia-friendly services, transportation authorities often focus on four factors: availability, accessibility, adaptability, and affordability. Dementia-friendly communities have rides available to persons with dementia i.e., buses and trains serve adult day care centers, and other dementia support activity centers. The drivers (and the staff) on bus or train are trained to assist persons with dementia during their travel. e.g., to identify their destination, to get through doors, to help them with belongings. The drivers are trained to helps persons with dementia if they need help while paying fares or feel agitated.


Dementia-friendly transportation services ensure that they are adapting to the population’s needs by conducting annual surveys. They identify needs of persons with dementia and include possible services such as a befriender on a bus. Dementia-friendly communities have affordable transportation services as they have secured grants or funding for these services. In some communities, the caregiver is also provided free rides when they are with their carepartner e.g., taking a person with dementia to a dentist.    


Last but not least, some communities provide supplemental transit services. These are on-demand, individual, and paid transit services. The staff of these services is trained to work with persons with dementia. Occasionally, supplemental transit services are volunteer operated and offer free rides. Unlike befriender services who would accompany a person with dementia to their activity, the supplemental transit is limited to drop off at the destination.     


Dementia-friendly transportation helps persons with dementia to have a social life. It brings people with dementia out of their confinement to homes and into public life. At Alzcare labs, we are working on products that will keep persons with dementia safe while they are using public transit systems.


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