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Research into practice: creating a dementia friendly community

This September marks Dementia Awareness Month and the theme is creating a Dementia Friendly Australia. This is to support Alzheimer’s Australia’s vision of creating a nation where people with dementia enjoy a high quality of life with meaning, purpose and value.

A crucial first step is for people to become dementia-aware and understand what it is like to live with dementia. So before you read on, please first watch this beautiful video released by Alzheimer’s Australia titled ‘The Unspoken Impact of Dementia’.

A major part of this vision includes creating dementia friendly communities.

So what is a dementia friendly community?

According to Alzheimer’s Australia Policy Officer Kylie Watkins, who is leading the management of this community based project.

“A dementia-friendly community is a place where people living with dementia are supported to live a high quality of life with meaning, purpose and value. For people with younger onset dementia, this also means being given the opportunity and support to stay at work or volunteer.”

A dementia-friendly community may include:

  • Businesses that provide accessible services to people with dementia, including having staff who understand dementia and know how to communicate effectively with people who have dementia.
  • Employers that provide support for people living with the disabilities of dementia to continue with paid employment.
  • Volunteering opportunities for people with dementia.
  • Memory cafes for people with dementia and their families.
  • Choirs, walking groups, sporting clubs and social groups that are welcoming and inclusive of members with dementia.
  • Adult education facilities that provide opportunities to support new learning, for example courses at tertiary institutions, TAFE, or learning a new language or instrument.

“We are committed to test a range of innovative initiatives to address social inclusion, physical design and community understanding of dementia in the local area.” – said Kylie Watkins.

One of these current ‘dementia friendly pilot trials’ is based in Kiama, NSW, a coastal town near Sydney. It is a collaborative project between Alzheimer’s Australia, the University of Wollongong and Kiama Council.

The project has five main areas that will contribute to Kiama becoming dementia friendly. These are;

  1. Listening to what is important for people living with dementia in the Kiama community.
  2. Establishing a local dementia alliance that will work together. Members of the alliance will inclide people with dementia, local government, community organisations, businesses and schools.
  3. Supporting local organisations and businesses to become dementia friendly through making small changes that will have a large impact on the lives of people with dementia.
  4. Raising awareness of dementia through providing information sessions, public lectures and education opportunities for all members of the community.
  5. Working with organisations to promote volunteering, employment and other social engagement opportunities for people living with dementia.

Ms Watkins finished by saying:

“Dementia friendly is everybody’s business and each organisation plays an important part in achieving the goal of a dementia-friendly community in Kiama being realised.”

While the Kiama pilot project is still in its initial stages, Alzheimer’s Australia welcomes community involvement and feedback from everyone, so if you would like to get involved in this or other dementia friendly community projects please email Kylie Watkins (kylie.watkins@alzheimers.org.au)

Are you interested in learning more?

Alzheimer’s Australia is touring International Guest Speaker Steve Milton around Australia, who will give a series of lectures on his experiences with dementia friendly communities within the UK. Steve is one of three directors of Innovations in dementia - a not-for-profit in the UK that tests innovative ways of engaging with people with dementia. Steve’s tour starts on Monday the 15th of September.

To find out more please visit our website or call our National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500 for more information.

Sources: 

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