For many people living with dementia, memory impairment is not the only barrier to maintaining their independence.

Changes in sensory awareness is another major factor, which is why walking charity Paths for All have developed a dementia-friendly area in their National Path Demonstration Site where they will teach professionals and volunteers from charities, third-sector organisations and community groups how to make walking areas more accessible for all.

With the help of a grant from the Dementia Services Trust, the project began last year and will be used to help support projects that improve the walking environment for people living with dementia.

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Senior development officer Carl Greenwood said:"We've got an aim to increase the number of people in Scotland who are physically active and we believe walking is the best way to do that because it's free, you don't need equipment and it's something that almost everybody can do."

Since 2015, Paths for All have helped their networks of walking groups become dementia friendly through training and grants and encouraging them to look at how walks can be made more accessible.

Mr Greenwood said: "There are lots of barriers for people living with dementia accessing these sorts of activities so we've put in place accreditation for groups to work through and from feedback we've seen there's so much that we could be doing with our environment to make them more inclusive and to make them more enjoyable spaces not just for people living with dementia, but for everybody."

The demonstration site is a resource to help the charity showcase best practice, inclusive design and infrastructure, and management of shared use paths.

The 1km path loops around Scotland's Rural College's Oatridge Campus in Broxburn, West Lothian, and now includes benches, bold signage, gates and different path surfaces.

Mr Greenwood said: "With this award we saw an opportunity to create an area focusing specifically on dementia. Through our previous work in this area we know that just because someone has got a diagnosis of dementia doesn't mean they want to stop getting out and about in their local communities and green spaces."

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Many people living with the condition still live at home and want to maintain their independence for as long as possible, said Mr Greenwood. 

"They still want to get out like they always have but there are lots of barriers in terms of confidence, concerns around safety and just knowledge of safe and accessible places to go and walk so it's those things that we're trying to look at."

The project will take a "social approach" rather than a medical one, encouraging training participants to think differently when coming to apply what they learn there.

Mr Greenwood said: "We don't over-medicalise the training because if someone is diagnosed with dementia we think about how sensory challenges might impact their experience of a walk.

"It's not just about memory but somebody might have issues around sight loss, things like a change in the contrast of a path's surface might look like a step that could cause someone to trip or fall."

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Paths for All run courses for local authorities, national parks and charities and have found more recently that volunteers from community groups are taking on the responsibility of maintaining and developing local path networks.

The improvements the dementia project are hoping to encourage won't just change the experience for people living with dementia, but people from all walks of life.

Mr Greenwood said: "The changes we're making and suggesting would benefit everybody so having more accessible signage, having better seating and thinking about the planting. That doesn't just benefit people living with dementia and older people but people with buggies or young children, or horseriders."

Paths for All continue to consult with people living with dementia and their families while they develop the site, and encourage others to do the same.

Mr Greenwood said: "It's really important to speak to people in your community and find out how they currently use the path networks, woodlands and parks and get feedback on how they would like to see them improve."

For the dementia project at the demonstration site, whose first dedicated training session is scheduled for March, it's "only the beginning of the story," said Mr Greenwood.

"Now we've got to start using it with groups. Our vision is to develop this site as things progress and we learn from projects we're working with and to share that knowledge within our network so they can take that back to their local path networks and start to change their own environments."