Possibly from day one, luck has been on Di’s side when it comes to dealing with people in Cygnet, Franklin and their environs. As well as being in a beautiful area to live in scenically, its beauty appeared to extend to the positive feel within the community when Di and husband Mike moved there. People were helpful and welcoming and not excluding. Even after Di was diagnosed with dementia in 2011, when you suspect that things might change, they didn’t; the community remained non discriminatory and inclusive for both Di and Mike.
At the time Di was diagnosed, she was employed full-time, with little spare time for socialising so she found herself on the proverbial scrap heap, which could have been a very isolating experience.However, Di decided to see what was going on in the area and whether she could do some boating activities, in particular rowing.
Di and Mike had sold their own boat, but Di soon discovered a newly formed group called WoW (Women on Water). WoW would go out on a Friday morning in a fleet of wooden dinghies, courtesy of the Living Boat Trust. Di asked if she could join them which was not a problem. Di responded, “umm, what about if I’ve got dementia, which makes some things more difficult to do than would be normal?” The group replied “no problem – we can work around what you can do.” At one meeting, the WoW group specifically make a point of asking Di how best they could help her and made a note of her response. In return, Di would be clear in expressing what her specific problems are and suggest solutions that would suit everyone.
This has prevailed over the last three years and Di is completely included in everything they do. The group has gone on to build a coxed 4-man coastal rowing boat and, several members including Di, have joined the Huon Rowing Club and row skinny racing sculls.
As a group, they have a number of widely varying skills but there are also other members who have difficulties, physical or mental, and the strength of the group is that everyone is working to common goals: enjoyment, support and inclusivity. They bolster each other up and, for Di, this has been of inestimable value, which enables Di to continue to do things she loves. This attitude is also seen with other groups Di associates with, for example the Community Garden.
As well as rowing, some other activities that the group has been involved with (not everyone, all the time, depending on availability, ability and interest) include:
* picnics and camping, with or without boats usually to commemorate members birthdays or special events
* boat maintenance working bees
* taking part in other social activities in the Living Boat Trust
* providing help with catering for schools’ Rowing Regattas
* taking part in the World St Ayles Skiffs Championships at Ullapool, Scotland, UK and more
Di is overwhelmed by the community support and will continue being involved in these community activities for as long as she is able.
This article features in Alzheimer’s Australia’s First Steps to a Dementia-Friendly Australia booklet.