How Singapore Uses Brightly Colored Signs for Their Dementia-Friendly Neighborhoods

With the number of Singaporeans being diagnosed with dementia, community support has become vital for them and their caregivers. 

People are coming together and building amazing dementia-friendly communities and support systems in Singapore.

One such area is the Yishun neighborhood. This is where Ting Ting takes her dad for a walk on a daily basis.

She begins the walk from their home at Block 862 Yishun Avenue 4. Their mom comes with them along Lower Seletar Reservoir. They take a stop at the supermarket and head home. 

But, this isn’t an ordinary walk. James, Ting Ting’s dad, has dementia. 

Providing Support for the Patients & Their Caregivers 

The initiatives driven by the community are introduced to reduce the burden of caregivers and enable more support. They’ve started appearing through Yishun, but in other neighborhoods in Singapore too. 

Although they’re a great step toward a more inclusive society, not every individual with dementia can communicate about whether this initiative helps or doesn’t help, particularly if they have more advanced dementia, such as James.

Therefore, people like 55-year-old Emily Ong ensure people with dementia have a voice. Ong herself has been diagnosed with young-onset dementia. 

She’s the first Asian to be chosen as part of the board of the Dementia Alliance International.

She’s breaking stereotypes about the illness as she goes. 

The Importance of Safe Communities for People with Dementia

Nee-Soon is the first dementia-friendly estate. The vibrant pedestrian street of Khatib Central has bikers, the elderly chatting in coffee shops, and busy families finishing their chores.

This estate was co-designed back in 2019 by design consultants, healthcare partners, and community stakeholders. It enables people with dementia to be in a safe community.

The buildings there have three zones marked by colors, i.e., red, blue, and green. This is because primary colors are easy to distinguish and allow easier wayfinding.

There are icons like a fish, pineapple, and a tree that represent the three zones. The community features big directional signs which are color-coded as well. They help people with dementia navigate through the area easily.

However, for Emily, the icons were a bit too abstract while the signs contain a lot of information. 

Barricades are set in place to keep the elderly and people with dementia safe from people on bikes on the busy street.

This is why cyclists are encouraged to hop off their bikes and push them. The housing area is labeled with huge block numbers painted at eye level at the top of the blocks.

This eases their identification from afar.

The Number of Dementia Sufferers in Singapore Is on the Rise

The center of Khatib Central is the home of NSTC which works alongside community partners like AIC on education and spreading awareness of dementia in their community.

The staff and retailers from this area are trained to assist people with dementia. They can communicate with them and recognize symptoms.

The go-to points are set up through different areas in the neighborhood to help people who wander off to get back. There are staff members at these points and they help direct them.

Emily who is co-chair and lead of the Environmental Design Special Interest Group says that people who have dementia are vulnerable. However, no dementia-friendly community should be 100 percent free of risks. 

Some challenges and risks will help sufferers train their cognitive capacity. By removing risks, they’re losing their independence. 

According to the Health Ministry, by 2030, Singapore may be the home to 152,000 individuals with dementia. 

It’s also worrisome that dementia has begun to affect the younger population as well. In Singapore, more than 100 cases reported of young onset dementia are people younger than 60. 

Dementia is a condition that affects the whole family. Caregivers have to change their lives or give up work to care for the person with dementia. So, the number of people affected by this condition is much higher.