Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Dane County Working To Become More Dementia Friendly

July 18, 2016
Stephanie Miller: 608.267.8823
County Executive

                           Initiative Aims to Increase Dementia-Friendly Environments in Dane County


MADISON – The Dane County Department of Human Services’ Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) has teamed up with Walgreens on an educational program to provide the drugstore’s employees a chance to “Shop in Their Shoes,”  and better understand what it might feel like to live with dementia or another chronic condition. In addition, at the direction of County Executive Parisi, Dane County is working to become a Dementia Friendly workforce. Trainings for staff began earlier this spring and are ongoing. 


“The County is working to ensure our workforce knows how to help people affected with dementia and is leading the effort to help others do so as well,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “I applaud Walgreens on their efforts to assist our community better.”


The program is part of the ADRC’s work to increase awareness and empathy for those who live with dementia in Dane County, and create dementia-friendly spaces where individuals can more easily access life’s necessities.


To kick off the program, employees at the Walgreens store in Monona wore goggles to limit vision, cotton in their ears to reduce hearing, surgical gloves with their fingers taped together to limit dexterity, and popcorn kernels in their shoes to cause pain, which many adults experience. The employees were asked to find items in the store from a list, and afterwards, talk about how the experience affected them.

“As a company, we aim to be customer-led in everything we do, and this is a program that can bring greater awareness to our employees, while also enabling us to provide more personalized care and service for our customers and patients,” said Cameron Birch, Walgreens director of pharmacy and retail operations in Madison.


Now a “Dementia Champion,” the Walgreens Monona store manager who completed the program, will be teaching the “Shop in Their Shoes” experience to 14 additional Walgreens locations in the area.


People with dementia may experience changes in vision, hearing, balance, mobility, and the ability to communicate. They may have more difficulty with comprehension and have less awareness of their surroundings. This can cause feelings of anxiety and make every experience more challenging, including everyday tasks such as shopping.

A dementia-friendly community recognizes these challenges and does what it can to support their neighbors and to help them feel welcomed, accepted and understood.


According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are over 5 million Americans living with  Alzheimer’s disease, and by 2020 there will be approximately 120,000 people living with dementia in Wisconsin.


The ADRC provides free memory screens and unbiased assistance in finding resources to help individuals receive an early dementia diagnosis. The ADRC has also partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance to support Dane County communities in their efforts to become dementia friendly.


To learn more about how to get involved, or to learn more about ways to create a dementia empathy experience, please contact the Aging & Disability Resource Center at 608-240-7400, or visit