Sharing dementia expertise

Closer collaboration between Scotland and Japan.

Scottish healthcare specialists will share their expertise in caring for those with dementia and older people at an international seminar in Japan this week.

Scotland and Japan are both remodelling their approach to care of older people due to ageing populations, with a particular emphasis on dementia and, more widely, in gerontology (the study of all aspects of ageing).

Scotland’s patient-centric approach is highly regarded by the Tokyo Metropolitan Geriatric Hospital and Institute of Gerontology, which is looking to  introduce a similar system in Japan.

After the seminar, taking place in Tokyo on Wednesday, the University of Stirling and the Tokyo Metropolitan Geriatric Hospital and Institute of Gerontology will sign a Memorandum of Understanding committing to a long-term partnership. The collaboration will focus on the development of dementia and age-friendly communities based around person-centred approaches.

Five million people in Japan today are living with some form of dementia and this is expected to rise to seven million by 2025. Prevalence in Scotland is estimated at up to 90,000, with around 45,000 people having a formal diagnosis.

External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop will deliver the keynote speech at Wednesday’s seminar. She said:

“Dementia touches all our lives either directly or through our family and friends, and it is crucial that we look to meet the needs of people living with dementia, or are newly diagnosed with the condition.

“In Scotland, we continue to take a whole-system approach to improving services – it is really important that people are not discriminated against or disempowered because of the progress of their illness or their particular care circumstances.

“I have been heartened to learn about the pioneering work being undertaken on dementia-friendly communities in Japan and discover we share some similar approaches. 

“It will be great to see representatives from Japanese ministries and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the University of Stirling and healthcare professionals, come together to share and learn best practice in this important field.”

Dr Louise McCabe, Senior Lecturer at the University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre said:

“By creating dementia-friendly communities and promoting social citizenship for people with dementia and their families, we aim to establish a society where these individuals are supported to make choices about their own lives and to live well with dementia.

“Our research has helped improve the lives of people with dementia and their families in Scotland and beyond, for many years. Japan has one of the most rapidly-ageing societies in the world and there’s lots to learn from one another.

“We share an important common vision to support people with dementia and their families to achieve a good quality of life and look forward to working together to take strides forward in this area.”

Stephen Lithgow, Associate Improvement Advisor for NHS Healthcare Improvement Scotland, will share Scotland’s expertise at the seminar. He said:

“Scotland’s dementia policy and practice has been the product of Scottish Government support and team work across a broad range of agencies and stakeholders. The key has been listening to people with dementia and their carers and putting people with dementia at the centre of their care. Only by working together can we provide the best outcomes for them. Whether as policy makers, frontline staff, neighbours or friends, the important message is that dementia is everybody’s business.”


At the seminar, government and healthcare professionals in Tokyo, together with experts from University of Stirling and NHS Scotland, will explore the human rights-based approach facilitated by the development of a ‘Dementia Friendly Community’. It will also feature testimonies from people living with dementia.

Innovation in both countries includes:

Scottish Football Association dementia work

  • The Football Memories project, operated by the Scottish Football Museum, began in 2009 with three groups. It now has memory groups operating in 20 professional clubs and over 150 groups throughout Scotland.
  • The project is formally supported by the Scottish FA and has received financial support from UEFA. It has attracted interest throughout the world including America, Brazil and a number of countries in Europe. 

Fujinomiya project

  • Work is being undertaken in Japan on dementia-friendly communities. One example is the Fujinomiya project, Bridging Communities; Sharing Our Memories, run by high school students, which supports intergenerational interaction based on the history of the local area using photographs. Students are also involved in internships in which they record photographs and memories of a person with dementia by speaking to them and compiling a life history of the person. 

The Dementia Seminar takes place on Wednesday 15 February as part of a programme of activity delivered by Scottish Development International (SDI) and the Scottish Government.

Ms Hyslop’s programme of engagements runs from 13 to 17 February in both Tokyo and Nagasaki, and more will be announced throughout the coming week. 


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