‘Stepping Out’ is a social activity–based group for people living with memory loss. The group is supported by Alzheimer’s Australia NT to participate in social outings, group discussions and activities within the community. For many years the Alzheimer’s Australia NT ‘Stepping Out’ group has visited the Hibiscus Shopping Centre as part of the program. Hibiscus is a small northern suburbs shopping centre providing services to many local families and older territorians.
The businesses in the centre often come together to provide a free morning tea for the ‘Stepping Out’ group. Strawberry Fields, the central café in the centre, hosts the get together with all members of the community enjoying the event.
Building relationships and connecting to people and their stories is what life in the territory is all about. Without these relationships, meetings are purely just words. Alzheimer’s Australia NT and the Thursday ‘Stepping Out’ group have grown their relationship with Hibiscus Shopping Centre to one that will not only benefit themselves but also benefit the entire community.
The ‘Stepping Out’ group has become part of the Hibiscus Shopping Centre family. The centre manager has experienced first-hand the challenges of patrons who have cognitive impairment and with that has come a yearning to provide them with the best possible experience they can have during their visit to the centre; to feel safe and included.
Alzheimer’s Australia’s NT staff have met with the centre manager on many occasions during the morning teas and discussions have now taken a new direction. There is much talk about dementia and what makes a dementia-friendly environment.
The centre manager, Laura, with the support of other key businesses has set a goal to take steps towards being the first dementia-friendly environment in the territory. Achieving this goal would also mean the centre would be creating a pathway towards reducing stigma and discrimination and would be working towards the full inclusion of people living with dementia.
The key steps towards reaching this goal will include staff education and awareness raising throughout the centre. The ‘Stepping Out ‘group supports the key personnel to walk in their shoes and look at signage, lighting, noise levels and resting places through the centre, while also conducting an environmental audit as they go. Planning towards a new dementia-friendly tomorrow is well and truly underway.
As they work towards creating a dementia-friendly shopping centre, the staff and businesses at Hibiscus Shopping Centre would help to provide an opportunity for regular conversations about dementia, help change community attitudes and support acceptance for those people living with dementia. What an achievement this would be.
This article features in Alzheimer’s Australia’s First Steps to a Dementia-Friendly Australia booklet.