Dennis, MA – The Town of Dennis is the first Cape Cod town to be designated as both, an Age and Dementia Friendly Community by the AARP Network of Age Friendly States and Cities, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Network of Age Friendly Communities, and Dementia Friendly America – Massachusetts (ADF), for its commitment to being an accessible and great place to live, work and play, for people of all ages, and for individuals and families coping with dementia.
The Town of Dennis received this distinction after five years of work that involved educating residents, businesses, town administration, committees and the Dennis Select Board, about population demographics, the benefits of building community around the reality of an older population, and the meaning of becoming age and dementia friendly, with guidance from Town Gerontologist and Dennis Council on Aging Director, Brenda Vazquez. Since December 2017, Vazquez approached her new post with a goal to become the first Age and Dementia Friendly Town on the Cape and to “remodel the center to reflect the people and culture it serves, to elevate design and function, not cost, to fulfill its purpose of supporting a thriving and health-promoting lifestyle for residents and visitors to enjoy.”
“Dennis’s designation is the culmination of a multi-year effort supported by the Governor’s Council to address Aging in Massachusetts, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, Massachusetts Councils on Aging, Tufts Healthcare Foundation, Barnstable County Human Services (BCHS), Dementia Friendly Massachusetts, and lastly, John Terrio, COA Liaison to the Town of Dennis Select Board, all very supportive” said Vazquez. The Town is committed to listen to the needs of its aging population, assess and monitor their age-friendliness and work collaboratively with older people and across sectors to create accessible ‘physical environments, inclusive social activities, and a responsive service infrastructure.’
WHO established the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities to connect organizations worldwide with the common vision of making their community a great place to grow old as a response to global population aging. It focuses on action at the local level that fosters the full participation of older people in community life and promotes healthy and active aging. AARP became the WHO counterpart for the Age Friendly movement in the United States. As a part of this project, BCHS assisted Dennis with conducting focus groups and a community survey and developing plans, infrastructure funding ideas, and programs to successfully implement projects and initiatives in WHO’s evidence-based criteria of eight domains of livability:
- Outdoor spaces and buildings
- Social participation
- Civic participation and employment
- Communication and information
- Community support and health services
- Respect and social inclusion
Dennis demonstrates its commitment to fostering an age friendly environment continually. Most recently, the Select Board approved an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant to the Dennis Center for Active Living (DCAL) to fund a full-time Coordinator for the Supportive Day Program, Golden Age Pals (GAP), one of the few options in the region for caregiver respite support and social care. The GAP offers full and part time supportive day care for individuals coping with cognitive decline and early stage dementia, and features engaging, social and cognitive stimulation activities. The Town offers a variety of ADF programs through several departments including the Council on Aging’s Dennis Center for Active Living, Beaches and Recreation (accessible beach and recreation equipment) and continues to explore others. One example is the Dennis Center for Active Living which will be fully open next fall, after renovations are completed. For future, a proposed experiential, rehabilitative, and sensory walking path on one of the Town’s conservation parcels is being explored.
The Town of Dennis is located on the Cape Cod Peninsula and combines the magnificent views of the National Seashore and Cape Cod Bay, and the strength and resilience of a long-established population of 14,667. Town staff and leadership are dedicated to providing Dennis with sound infrastructure. Dennis fosters a thriving business community, while balancing sustainable fiscal operations and maintaining safe and healthy neighborhoods with an abundant selection of recreational, social and cultural opportunities. These priorities work together to create a vibrant and enjoyable quality of life that is uniquely Dennis. For more information about getting involved in the Dennis Age and Dementia Friendly Committee, please contact the DCAL, (508)-385-5067 ext. 386.