Rural dementia is rising, say experts

A ground-breaking study is set to assess the rising impact of dementia on rural communities.

Dementia is a growing health problem, with an expected rise in the number of cases of 156% between now and 2051, according to statistics from the Alzheimer's Society.

This equates to two million people, and experts say the burden will fall on rural areas where there are significantly higher proportions of elderly people.

Yet little is known about how this impact will manifest itself and what kind of specialist care networks will need to be in place to tackle it.

Now a major project from Plymouth University will for the first time assess the impact of dementia on farming communities.

Results from the "Farming, Dementia and Networks of Care" study will be useful for farming communities, healthcare and service providers, and academics researching the condition.

Funded by the Seale Hayne Educational Trust, the project will be led by Richard Yarwood and Claire Kelly from the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Dr Yarwood said: "This project is a starting point and we hope that it will be useful to care agencies and provide support for farming families affected by dementia.

"We will be making our key findings public and we hope in turn that this will lead to a wider understanding of dementia in rural places.

"We plan to build on this small-scale project to develop applications for future research into the care of those with dementia in the countryside."

The project, which will begin as a pilot in Devon, will investigate how farmers, their families and carers cope when they are affected by dementia.

It will consider the impact of dementia on farming businesses; to evaluate how dementia affects farming families and communities.

The study will also examine how voluntary and state agencies might be able to best support farming families with dementia.

A steering group will include Joanne Jones from the Farming Community Network. It will be chaired by Ian Sherriff, of Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.

Mr Sherriff said: "There is widespread recognition at the highest level of government about the present and potential future impacts of dementia.

The search for ways to enhance the quality of life for those affected was constant and complex, he added.

"This innovative research will provide a body of knowledge that has the potential to open up new ways that the farming community can understand and support people with dementia and their carers, in rural communities."

The research team are interested in talking to farmers who have a family member suffering from dementia.

For more details, contact Dr. Yarwood (, Dr. Kelly ( or Ian Sherriff (


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