Ozcare supports dementia friendly communities in Australia and beyond

Dementia-Friendly Communities

For Australia and Beyond

People living with dementia, their family, and carers can face barriers to active participation in their communities. Some examples of these difficulties might be:

  • Working out where to go: poor signage or lighting
  • Feeling misunderstood: customer service staff not being aware of dementia, and being impatient in their dealings with people with dementia
  • Feeling left out or ignored: friends losing touch, perhaps because of fear or ignorance about dementia
  • Not being listened to or respected: health and care staff may not respond well to the needs of people with dementia if they have little knowledge or awareness of the illness

For the past few years, a number of countries around the world – most notably Japan and the UK – have worked hard to tackle these difficulties, and to develop ‘dementia-friendly communities’.

But what do the words ‘dementia-friendly’ and ‘dementia-friendly communities’ mean?

Dementia-friendly communities are places that support people with dementia to:

  • Live full and active lives
  • Be involved with and contribute to their community
  • Feel welcome and understood

Dementia Alliance International is an advocacy organisation, campaigning for a better deal for people with dementia around the world. You can only be a member of Dementia Alliance International if you have a diagnosis of dementia. Kate Swaffer, head of Dementia Alliance International, says:

“The importance of the concept of dementia friendly communities fits with the needs of our human rights and disability rights to be recognised. In the same way as any other person with a disability, we should be supported to remain independent in our communities for as long as possible.”

A lot of the difficulties faced by people with dementia relate to the stigma associated with dementia, and with the lack of awareness in the community about dementia.

This is where efforts to promote dementia-friendly communities come into play. If people know about and understand dementia, they’re more likely to be supportive in their contact with people with dementia. This learning is important at an individual level (say friends and family learning more about dementia) and at an organisational and society level too (for example, banks and shopping centres becoming ‘dementia-friendly’).

What matters most is that people with dementia and their family carers are involved from the outset in any campaigns to develop dementia-friendly communities. After all, people with dementia are the best people to decide if a community is dementia-friendly. Some of the best work in this area happens when a person or group of people with dementia report similar difficult experiences (say difficulties on public transport), and take action together to improve that particular service (people with dementia being involved in some training on dementia awareness for public transport staff).

What We’re Doing to Develop Dementia-Friendly Communities

Ozcare’s dementia advisors offer support to individual people with dementia and their families all over Queensland, and they also do a lot of work with local communities to promote dementia awareness.

Some good examples of this are:

  • Helping to facilitate visits for people with dementia and family carers to local art galleries
  • Running dementia information sessions in local libraries, including involving people with dementia in presenting at these sessions
  • Organising regular social get-togethers for people with dementia and their family carers in everyday community venues such as cafes, restaurants and parks
  • Supporting a local church to become dementia-friendly, by teaching the church community about dementia and how to support people with dementia to stay connected with their church community
  • Raising awareness about dementia at general local groups aimed at older people: for example, Men’s Sheds and Probus groups, and facilitating ongoing involvement of people with dementia in these sorts of groups
  • From time to time, sharing stories with local media outlets about how it’s possible to live well with dementia – through sharing powerful stories from individuals about their lived experience
  • Sharing information about dementia at the commencement of a senior’s cinema session
  • Facilitating the involvement of people with dementia in local walking groups – for example through our work with Heart Foundation Walking
  • Attending a university orientation day to distribute information about dementia and help available
  • Being involved in a local dementia alliance, a group of over 30 local organisations working to promote dementia-friendly communities

It doesn’t take long to realise that there are so many places where work needs to be done to promote dementia-friendly communities! Here are just some examples:

  • Swimming pools
  • Gyms
  • Public transport providers
  • Schools
  • Banks
  • Libraries
  • Supermarkets and shopping centres

If the people who work in and use these regular, everyday places are given information and awareness about dementia, this can only help people with dementia. Similarly, if younger people are taught about dementia, there is hope that the next generation will have a better understanding of the needs of people with dementia.

We’ve also pulled together a new handy-size leaflet on ‘Living well with dementia’, which answers some basic questions about dementia:

  • What is dementia?
  • Can dementia be prevented?
  • What does it mean to live well with dementia?
  • What is a dementia-friendly community?

What Else is Going on Around Australia?

Since 2014, Dementia Australia has led a major campaign to promote dementia-friendly communities in Australia. Some of the most substantial work to develop dementia-friendly communities has been done in Port Macquarie and in Kiama, both in NSW.

Other good examples are:

  • A Men’s Shed project started by Alzheimer’s Australia NSW in the Hunter region of NSW
  • The National Gallery of Australia’s longstanding art outreach program for people with dementia
  • A mapping project to identify dementia-friendly services and organisations in several sites around Australia (see http://ourplacemap.com/), two of which are Brisbane and Bribie Island
  • A project offering dementia awareness information to customers and staff in Bunnings stores in NSW

What Else is Going on Around the World?

For the past five or so years, there has been a wide range of actions around the world to promote dementia awareness and dementia-friendly communities. Some of the most important programs are:

  • Japan’s dementia awareness training for the general public, which has now been offered to over 5.5 million people
  • Local dementia alliance groups in the UK (now over 300), coming together in a national Dementia Action Alliance with a membership of over 6000 organisations
  • The UK’s 2 million people who are ‘Dementia friends’, having completed a short online course on dementia awareness; this model has now been taken up by a number of other countries
  • Alzheimer’s Cafes developed in the Netherlands have now spread to many parts of the world

What Can You Do to Promote Dementia-Friendly Communities?

Each one of us can make a difference. Here are some suggestions for the sorts of things that individuals can do to promote dementia-friendly communities:

  • Learn more about dementia
  • If you have a relative, friend or neighbour living with dementia, make an effort to keep in touch
  • If you work with the general public, think about how it might feel for a person with dementia to make use of your service/organisation
  • If you are involved in local clubs and community groups, think about how welcoming and open these groups are to people with dementia.

Want to Know More?

Dementia Friendly Communities - Australia
Dementia Australia’s website hub with a range of resources to support the development of dementia-friendly communities in Australia

Dementia-Friendly Communities: Global Developments
Alzheimer’s Disease International 2016 report

Dementia-Friendly Communities - UK
Alzheimer’s Disease International


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