Safer walking

By Clare Teague. Published on 9/7/2020

Clare Teague from LandSAR (Land Search And Rescue New Zealand ) discusses the importance of safe walking for people living with dementia and New Zealand's own Wandatrack programme.

We all understand that the population of people with dementia is increasing, and with that the need for appropriate supports to enable people to maintain a healthy, safe and independent lifestyle. The New Zealand Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR) is involved via our work in national coordination of Safer Walking with raising awareness of the issues surrounding people with cognitive impairment going missing (known in the search and rescue sector as wandering). 

We have developed a website that includes a lot of information on the subject of people that are at risk of going missing due to a cognitive impairment. Our focus is on reduction of the risk in the first incidence and readiness for a going missing event.  There are many strategies that can be used to lower the risk for an individual of going missing, however we know there is no one solution – each person is unique and their situation is individual, therefore person-centred approaches need to be carefully thought through and introduced.  

One initiative is the use of the Safer Walking Profile – this is the New Zealand version of the United Kingdom’s Herbert Protocol and can be found here. We strongly recommend that all people who have a risk of going missing complete this profile. The process of talking about walking in the community and keeping safe, in itself, raises awareness with the person and their family/whanau/ carers.

People with a greater risk of going missing may benefit from technology solutions to assist them if they get lost. There are many apps for cell phones or dedicated devices with a GPS location system. These are excellent at locating a person if the person at risk is well supported, will be within cellular network coverage, and is happy with the associated arrangements regarding monitoring. Early introduction of technology to support freedom to walk about and engage with the community and the ability to be located if need be is to be encouraged.  

If people have challenges remembering to keep cell phones or GPS devices charged or with them when they go out, or who live in areas with poor cellular network coverage then WanderSearch devices (pendant/keyring/wrist ) maybe a solution.  These are an aid to rapid location for trained Police and/or LandSAR volunteers should the person be reported missing to Police.  WanderSearch devices cannot be monitored so there are no concerns regarding a person’s privacy. To find out more about WanderSearch go to the national website.

The WanderSearch Programme is delivered through-out New Zealand by not-for-profit organizations and mainly relies on volunteers to administer the programme, with the search and rescue function sitting with Police and then as asked trained volunteers, mainly LandSAR members.


Clare Teague is the National Safer Walking Coordinator. 



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