All those who wander are not lost: walking with purpose in extra care, retirement and domestic housing
BARRETT Julie, EVANS Simon, PRITCHARD-WILKES Vanessa
Sets out the findings from a mixed methods study exploring walking with purpose in extra care, retirement and domestic housing settings, along with the perceptions and responses of staff and family carers. The term ‘wandering’ has become a label with negative overtones in the context of dementia care and suggests aimlessness, whereas in fact there is often a purpose or aim behind this activity. In recognition of this, the term ‘walking with purpose’ is used in this study while also acknowledging that this includes ‘wandering’ as a normal and valuable human activity. The study indicates that, although residents who walk with purpose constitute a minority of people living in retirement and extra care housing schemes, managing walking with purpose can be a challenge for management and staff and can occupy a disproportionate amount of their time. The findings emphasise the importance of: getting to know the resident, finding out their motivations and reasons for walking and trying to accommodate their wishes; ensuring staff receive appropriate training in understanding and addressing walking with purpose; ensuring the design of the physical environment supports the way-finding abilities of people living with dementia. Example design recommendations that emerged from this study include: gardens and outdoor spaces must be secure and enclosed; provide safe indoor and outdoor walking routes with frequent places to rest and interesting things to see and do along the way; design features to assist with way-finding. The paper also supports the use of assistive technology devices such as contact ID wrist bands, door sensors, speaking door sensors, GPS trackers and alarm mats.