Tempe Looks To Become 'Dementia Friendly' City

Published: Monday, November 24, 2014 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, February 22, 2021 - 12:19pm

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than five million Americans. One of those is Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell’s mother. Her illness has prompted Mitchell to push for Tempe to become a “dementia friendly” city.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most expensive condition in the nation, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Costs are projected to run in the trillions of dollars by 2050. Mayor Mark Mitchell has firsthand experience with the disease — and he’s not alone.

“The more I talked about my personal situation with my family, with my mother to be specific, the more and more you realize, ‘hey, this is pretty common,'” he said.

So common, in fact, that Mitchell and Tempe’s city council are looking to see what it will take to make Tempe a “dementia-friendly” city. On the surface, it would involve partnering with organizations in Tempe and across the Valley to make life a little easier for those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

“We’ve all got to circle around this and say, what can we do to make our work place, our local grocery store, our first responders, our hospitals, our faith communities and our community centers more dementia friendly?" said Jan Dougherty of the Banner Alzheimer's Institute.

Dougherty said Tempe’s idea isn’t new. In fact, several towns in Minnesota have implemented programs to meet the needs of this growing population, and for very good reason.

“We’re still a couple decades out from effective treatment. So if we’re going to have this as part of society, how are we going to help individuals and their family members live with this?” she said.

It will be a while before Dougherty or Mitchell can answer that question. But the mayor said the city’s Smart911 program, which provides additional background information to first responders, is a step in the right direction.