11 June 2019
Friendly cafe staff who don’t rush customers, sensory gardens and easy-to-understand street signage are some of the initiatives being introduced in the increasing number of dementia-friendly communities across Australia.
Across Australia, there are some 447,000 people living with dementia, with this figure tipped to rise to 1.1 million people by 2058. Over that time period, it is estimated that Australia will need to spend $1 trillion on dementia management.
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said it was vitally important for communities to come together to embrace and support neighbours and local residents with dementia.
Ms McCabe said there were now 90 communities, organisations and businesses across Australia who were on an ongoing pathway to being dementia-friendly.
“Supporting people with dementia to stay in the environment they enjoy, and doing the things they enjoy, is really important,” Ms McCabe said. “We know there are high levels of discrimination around dementia, and that can lead to social isolation, which can lead to depression, and that is not what we want for anybody.”
In May, the dementia-friendly community initiative received a boost, with the Committee for Sydney (a business-backed urban planning think tank) releasing a report which called on Sydney councils to become dementia-friendly.
“Figures compiled by Deloitte Access Economics for Dementia Australia calculate that the number of NSW residents living with dementia will increase from around 120,000 today to roughly 300,000 in 2050,” the report says.
“Ageing in place is critically important to delaying the onset and difficulty of dementia.
“Our urban form and design must consider the needs of people with dementia...planning for dementia is an area that all local areas will need to put more effort into.”
The report mentions the NSW south coast town of Kiama (pictured above) as a great example of a dementia-friendly community initiative.
Kiama has received international applause for dementia-friendly community initiative, which began in 2014 as a partnership between Dementia Australia and the University of Wollongong.
As explained in this recent SBS news story, some of the physical outcomes of the initiative include easy-to-read signage and easy-to-use door handles in public buildings, and an awareness among local cafes to speak slowly and allow people time to make decisions.
Ms McCabe said the Kiama case study illustrated the importance of improving the physical environment to cater for people with dementia.
“Signage to assist wayfinding is really important, and it is good to have pictures on these signs to make them easier to understand,” she said. “This is helpful not just for people living with dementia, but where people may have visual impairment, or are from a cultural and linguistically diverse background.”
“In addition, the use of colour in buildings is important, such as not having walls the same colour as the floors and having furniture which is a different colour from the floor, so people don’t go sit on the chair and end up on the floor.”
Ms McCabe also cited an art exhibition in Beechworth in Victoria which celebrated local people with dementia and also a dementia-friendly sensory garden installed in Bendigo, also in Victoria.
Dementia Australia has released a toolkit for local government about dementia-friendly initiatives.
By Mark Skelsey, News Editor at Downsizing.com.au - contact Mark at [email protected]