The challenge of dementia amongst our ageing minority ethnic population

New briefing and report on Dementia in minority ethnic populations

This week will see leading health figures from around the world meeting in London for the G8 Dementia Summit.  The Summit will focus unprecedented attention on the issue of dementia and the challenges it presents for us all. Today, it is already estimated that dementia costs the UK economy approximately £23 billion per year.  With the number of people with dementia worldwide expected to double by 2030 and triple by 2050, these challenges will only become more pronounced.  Yet in spite of these dramatic figures, research into dementia remains relatively underfunded and incomplete.

A key element missing from the current research agenda is the likely impact of dementia on black and minority ethnic communities.  A growing body of evidence suggests that that African-Caribbean and South Asian UK communities are at higher levels of risk than the indigenous white population, but despite the substantial increases in the number of older people from these groups in the UK, policy guidance on black and minority ethnic older people has not found its way into practice.  In addition, there appears to be limited understanding of dementia within black and minority ethnic communities themselves, with poor knowledge of available services and significant stigma surrounding the illness.

Responding to the particular challenges presented by the ageing minority ethnic population, the Race Equality Foundation and Age UK have are today publishing a short report presenting the learning from a national conference looking at dementia within these communities that took place in November. The conference brought together practitioners from across the health, social care and voluntary and community sectors to share their concerns and suggestions for good practice. The event also launched new research by David Truswell which highlighted the savings that could be made to the NHS through improved dementia care in minority ethnic communities. Truswell’s research proposed a role for ‘community dementia navigators’ and suggested that the use of befrienders could provide support to health professionals and guide isolated minority ethnic older people through the care pathway, delaying the need for individuals to enter residential care.  Other practical solutions suggested by the research included increased dementia training for health practitioners, co-operation with the voluntary and community sector to spread information relating to diagnosis and treatment, and engaging communities to tackle stigma and partake in strategic discussions about dementia.

Jabeer Butt, Deputy Chief Executive at the Race Equality Foundation has called the report, “A welcome contribution to the research and practice guidance surrounding dementia, and its focus on black and minority ethnic communities is timely, considering the increasing number of black and minority ethnic people in the UK who are now over the age of 65.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK says:

“Health and social care providers must be able to meet the needs of our increasingly ethnically and culturally diverse ageing population. We welcome the new research by the Race Equality Foundation and its focus on dementia in black and minority ethnic communities, and we were pleased to join with them in putting on an event and in producing the learning report.

“Raising awareness and ensuring that dementia care and support services – including those provided by voluntary organisations such as local Age UKs – are culturally appropriate, accessible and fully inclusive of older people from black and minority ethnic communities, their carers and families, is vital if we are to meet the needs of us all as we get older”.


1) “Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities and Dementia – where are we now?” is the report of a joint event held by the Race Equality Foundation and Age UK on 27 November 2013.

2) The Age UK and Race Equalities Foundation event was funded by the Department of Health as part of their Health and Care Voluntary Sector Strategic Partner Programme of which Age UK and the Race Equality Foundation are both partners.

3) The event also launched new research from David Truswell which is free to download from the Race Equality Foundation’s Better Health website:

4) The Race Equality Foundation is a national charity that promotes race equality in social support (what families and friends do for each other) and public services (what ‘workers’ do with people who need support).  We do this by:

  • exploring what is known about discrimination and disadvantage
  • developing evidenced-based better practice to promote equality
  • disseminating better practice through educational activities, conferences, written material and websites.

Find out more about our work at

5) Jabeer Butt, Deputy Chief Executive of the Race Equality Foundation, is available to speak about the findings from the new report and the accompanying research briefing.  If you would like to arrange an interview, please email

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