Heathrow Airport has declared itself the world’s first dementia-friendly airport after launching a program that will train airport staff on how to help travellers suffering from cognitive decline.

Air travel can be a stressful experience for even the seasoned frequent flier. But add to that anxiety the complexities of dementia, and travelling can become an exercise in fear and frustration, says the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK.

To put them at ease, all 76,000 staff members working at Heathrow Airport will be trained on how to support these fliers —  most notably security staff. Passing through security has been identified as a particularly stressful part of the airport experience. Security staff will be trained on how to identify potential fliers with dementia and reduce anxiety during this step of the process.

Likewise, frontline staff who work regularly with passengers with “hidden disabilities” such as autism, hearing and visual impairments and dementia, will undergo in-depth training, while designated quiet lounges will help affected passengers find calm.

The program is also part of the Prime Minister’s 2020 Challenge on Dementia, which encourages businesses to become “dementia-friendly”.

Dementia is a worldwide concern, with the planet’s aging population projected to bring the number of people living with the condition from 47 million today up to 135 million by 2050.

This is a unique and innovative program that falls in line with a bigger airport trend: health and wellness.

One of the popular programs being copied at airports around the world is the introduction of yoga classes, to help harried travellers decompress and relax before boarding their flight.

Yoga classes are offered at airports in San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago O’Hare, Helsinki and Heathrow.