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Aging in the era of air travel: Improving the accessibility of airports for travelers with dementia
journal contributionposted on 2018-05-17, 00:00 authored by Maria O'ReillyMaria O'Reilly, N Shepherd, H Edwards, J Franz, L Willmott, E Fielding, ER Beattie
Many older people enjoy travelling for leisure, air travel included. To increase the self-determination and independence of people living with dementia we need to reduce the barriers to participation in all areas of life, including leisure. We used an exploratory, mixed method research design to learn about the experiences of people with dementia when they travel. This included online surveys with 82 people (7 people with dementia, 41 travel companions, 21 flight crew and 13 security staff). Ten of the companions who completed the survey volunteered to participate in a qualitative telephone interview. This was followed by an assessment of the physical environment of an airport in a major Australian city using the Dementia Friendly Communities Environmental Assessment Tool (DFC-EAT) (Fleming & Bennett, 2015). The survey results showed that people with dementia and their travelling companions found navigating airport processes and designs the most challenging part of air travel, in particular security and immigration procedures. Using the DFC-EAT we identified problematic design features such as poor signage and blurred boundaries between retail and travel spaces that contributed to confusion at the airport. Efforts have been made to modify built environments to promote accessibility for people with physical disability, yet there has been comparatively little done for those with cognitive impairments. People with dementia need to have access to physical spaces that allow them to participate in a wide range of social activities. Improving the accessibility of transport hubs, such as airports, is an important way to facilitate social inclusion.