Developing dementia is second only to poverty in terms of what people are most concerned about for their later life, a study by Age Scotland has shown.
The YouGov survey ahead of Dementia Awareness Week, which begins tomorrow, asked more than 1,000 Scots to name two or three issues that worried them the most as they approach old age.
While “not having enough money to live on” was the greatest fear, “dementia and/or thinking skills getting worse” came second.
This concern came above developing a long-term illness, not being able to get out and about, being isolated or lonely, or having to move into a care home.
The charity, which has established an Early Stage Dementia Project through funding from the Life Changes Trust, has called for more action to tackle the stigma around dementia in light of these findings, and for more information to be made available on how people can reduce their risk of developing dementia.
Dementia campaigner Agnes Houston said: “Getting a diagnosis of dementia is not the end of your life. It just means adapting and learning to come to terms with new challenges. It means families supporting each other. We are all different.”
Age Scotland and Paths for All are publishing a guide, Healthy Living and Dementia, explaining what can be done to reduce dementia risk and how to live well with the condition by keeping active.
Richard Baker, early stage dementia team leader for Age Scotland, said: “Our research has shown the extent to which people are concerned about developing dementia, and while there is no doubt a diagnosis is a life-changing event it is also important that people are aware it is possible to live well with dementia.
“We meet many people with dementia who are active and valued members of their community.
“Fears about dementia can prevent people seeking a diagnosis and getting the help they need, and that is why it is important to tackle the stigma around the condition.
“We also need to do more to get the message out that people can take steps to reduce the risk of developing dementia. While people understand the links between cancer and heart disease and smoking, drinking, and diet, too few are aware that these apply to dementia too. We believe further action is required from the Scottish Government to place dementia at the heart of public health campaigns. We are pleased to be working with Paths for All and other organisations to promote awareness.”
About 90,000 people in Scotland have dementia. Symptoms can include problems with memory, thinking, mental agility, language and understanding.
Carl Greenwood, senior development officer at Paths for All, said: “There are practical ways you can reduce your risk of developing dementia. Being physically active brings a wealth of benefits. It can help to relieve stress, increase self-esteem, produce vitamin D and exercise the brain, helping with memory and cognitive functioning. We manage the Health Walk programme, which supports free, local walking groups.
“We’ve been helping our groups to become dementia friendly over the past two years. By joining a regular led health walk people have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of outdoor walking, improve their health and wellbeing and be part of a wider community.”