London Heathrow prepares to become world’s first dementia friendly airport

London Heathrow has announced its commitment to becoming the world’s first dementia friendly airport.

The UK airport is collaborating with Alzheimer’s Society to change social attitudes towards dementia as part of the charity’s Dementia Friendly Communities programme. The airport is looking to enhance dementia awareness among the 76,000 people working at the airport through the provision of ‘Dementia Friends’ sessions, training and online resources.

Part of the Prime Minister’s 2020 Challenge on Dementia, the programme encourages businesses to become dementia friendly so that people with the disease feel understood and included. Heathrow is working on transforming air transport in this area.

It is estimated that over 47 million people have dementia globally, which is projected to rise to over 135 million by 2050. In England alone nearly 700,000 people are affected, impacting the lives of over half a million carers and costing the UK #26 billion per year, the airport noted.

Heathrow has already implemented several initiatives in the area, working with Omniserv which provides assistance for passengers with special requirements. Initiatives include providing training for all frontline staff and the wider Heathrow team based on Alzheimer’s Society courses; training the frontline Special Assistance team, who interact with passengers affected by dementia as ‘Dementia Friends’; the creation of STAAR (Senior Trained Additional Assistance Role) teams to assist passengers who have bespoke needs, including passengers affected by dementia, autism as well as deaf and blind passengers; and providing quiet lounges areas in terminals.

Chief Executive of Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye, said: ‘Our vision is to give passengers the best airport service in the world. Airports can be particularly stressful for passengers with dementia so we are delighted to be working with the Department of Health and Alzheimer’s Society to make sure that they get the support they need. We have started training our colleagues and making improvements so that we can be the world’s first dementia friendly airport’.

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘Everyone has the right to be able to travel comfortably and with ease, and we all have a role in helping air passengers with dementia feel like they’re able to continue flying.’

‘Dementia Friends and Dementia Friendly Communities aim to change the way people think, act and talk about dementia. Alzheimer’s Society is delighted to be working with Heathrow on their commitment to become the world’s first truly global dementia friendly airport. We hope their pioneering work will pave the way for all airports the world over to transform the air travel experience for people with dementia and their carers.’