A trip to the cinema is one of life’s great pleasures, but it's not always a supportive environment for people living with dementia. Here are five ways cinemas can become more dementia-friendly.
Cinemas don’t always make accessible or supportive environments for people affected by dementia.
And with more than 900,000 people in the UK currently living with dementia, 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. Our free guide supports cinemas to become more accessible.
It's important to create social spaces that are accessible, welcoming and fun, so that people with dementia don’t have to miss out on the magic of cinema.
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. Choose the right films for people with dementia
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 in a screening, 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 from 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. Newer films also tend to have more cuts and move at a faster pace, which can be confusing for a person with dementia to follow.
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. Enrol staff in dementia-friendly 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 dementia brings is by becoming Dementia Friends.
This involves a free, one-hour Information Session for staff to attend in person or they can watch the shorter online videos. Employees at the cinema can feel empowered to support cinema-goers with dementia.
Sunflower lanyards have become a popular way for organisations to spot if someone has a non-visible disability, such as dementia. Recognising what the Hidden Disabilities wearables represent, and our Helpcards, could also be helpful.
Staff presence is 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. Use clear signage throughout the cinema
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 for cinemas recommends the usage of signs with lower case lettering and 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.
Using pictures and symbols as well as text can be helpful for people with dementia.
If in any doubt, cinemas can print out our free dementia-friendly signage ahead of the event.
4. Consider changing 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. Listen 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 are 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 making your organisation more dementia-friendly?
It's not just cinemas that can benefit from making their services more inclusive. Read our guidance on making your organisation more dementia-friendly.