A trip to the cinema is one of life’s great pleasures. But cinemas don’t always make accessible or supportive environments for people affected by dementia.
According to our recent survey, 69% of people with dementia said that the main reason they stop going out is a lack of confidence. And with more than 850,000 people in the UK currently living with the condition, it’s vital we do everything we can to build a society that’s inclusive for all.
That’s why a growing number of cinemas across the UK are now offering dementia-friendly film screenings. Put simply, it’s about creating social spaces that are accessible, welcoming and fun, so that people with dementia don’t have to miss out on the magic of cinema.
Our new guide will support cinemas to become more accessible. But have you ever wondered what makes a screening dementia friendly? Here are five small adjustments that can make a massive difference.
5 ways cinemas can become more dementia friendly
1. Choosing the right films
Knowing your audience is crucial for any film programmer, and the same goes for dementia-friendly film screenings.
While there are no hard rules for what should or shouldn’t be shown, certain types of films typically go down better than others. Musicals, for example, are particularly engaging for people with dementia. Evidence suggests that the brain processes music differently to other functions, so ‘Singing in the Rain’ can still be enjoyed long after other activities become more difficult.
Nostalgic old classics are another great choice, giving audiences the chance to connect with memories and reminisce. Newer films can work as well, but it’s best to avoid anything too long or with a complex narrative. Audience feedback is very important for this. Some cinemas may find they have a lot of people with young-onset dementia, for example, who may not be so engaged in ‘old’ films.
2. Staff training
A dementia-friendly cinema should provide a welcoming space for people living with dementia, starting with the staff. An easy way for cinema workers to get to grips with the challenges is by becoming Dementia Friends.
Dementia Friends is a social action movement which aims to increase understanding of dementia. It is a free, one hour session for staff to attend in person or they can watch the shorter online videos. These sessions will enable cinema staff to feel fully connected to the screenings and empowered to support customers with dementia.
Staff presence is also really important. Having lots of people on hand throughout the event—particularly as people arrive—can be both supportive and reassuring for the audience.
3. Clear signage
As well as having staff in place to answer questions, clear signage can help people with dementia get around the cinema with confidence. Signs for toilets, car parks, ticket points, entrances and exits are particularly important.
Our guide recommends cinemas use signs with lower case lettering, with a clear contrast between the text and the background. Large, simple fonts work best, and it’s also best practice to stick the signs on the doors they actually refer to. If in any doubt, cinemas can print out our free dementia-friendly signage ahead of the event.
4. Lighting and sound
A pitch black room can be intimidating for somebody living with dementia, making it more difficult to identify exits and toilet signs. We recommend cinemas opt for low lighting during dementia-friendly screenings, using lamps and up-lighters to create a softer, more relaxed feel.
Sound also needs careful consideration. While raising the volume too high can be stressful and difficult to process, many older people with dementia may also be hard of hearing. That’s why we strongly encourage that cinemas ask their audience for feedback during and after the screenings to find a good balance. Films with loud bangs or sudden noises may also be best avoided.
5. Listening to people living with dementia
We created our guide to dementia-friendly film screenings to give cinemas the tools and support they need. But nothing here is more valuable than the experiences of people living with dementia.
So if you’re somebody living with dementia, or care for a person who is, don’t be shy about giving feedback on your next cinema trip. Just as the small adjustments above can make a meaningful difference, your suggestion could help create a better cinema experience for everyone.
Want to know more about dementia-friendly cinema?
We’ve highlighted some of the key features of dementia-friendly film screenings, but you can find a lot more useful information in our new guide.