Residents of Kiama, on the South Coast of New South Wales, have embraced the dementia-friendly concept, receiving international recognition in the process.
“What we’ve encountered locally is people actually changing the ways they operate businesses or treat people, even just casual people on the street. Being involved in this project I can start to see changes that are affecting people’s lives on a daily basis,” said Dennis Frost, member of the Dementia Australia Dementia-Friendly Communities Advisory Group and his local Kiama Dementia Advisory Group.
Watch the team discuss their project in this video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkJNf0OX2Gc
Commencing in 2014 as a partnership between Dementia Australia, the University of Wollongong and Kiama Municipal Council, the Kiama Dementia-Friendly Community Program has led to a number of social inclusion activities and a shift in community attitudes.
A survey of community members, held two years apart, showed an improvement in sentiment around whether people living with dementia were able to participate in a wide variety of activities, and that people found it easy to discover dementia-friendly services or organisations in Kiama.
“It was really important for us to evaluate the impact of the project at a community level – so to have robust evidence that dementia-friendly programs can create more inclusive attitudes and also make information about services and supports for people with dementia more accessible is a great achievement,” said Dr Lyn Phillipson, University of Wollongong.
Project activities have included education and awareness-raising activities for more than 1,000 people in the area, and have been shown to improve inclusiveness of people living with dementia. Ongoing social activities have included dancing with dementia, iPod donations so people can listen to their favourite songs and reminisce, and an animal kinship program with virtual pets for people living with dementia, along with continuous community education.
Research has also been a strong focus, with the University of Wollongong conducting interviews and mapping exercises with people living with dementia and their carers; community and business surveys; and the development of an environmental assessment tool to audit public buildings.
All of this effort has shifted community sentiment and Kiama has been recognised for its contribution towards creating a more inclusive and dementia-friendly community, being named as a ‘gold standard’ by the Dementia Alliance International. This recognition was largely thanks to the establishment and leadership of the Dementia Advisory Group, which is made up exclusively of local people living with dementia and/or their care partners, which leads a broader alliance of representatives from local businesses, organisations and health professionals.
Kiama Municipal Council also received two national awards – the National Disability Award and a National Local Government Award – and was also recognised at the World Health Organisation Global Conference of the Alliance for Healthy Cities for its commitment to creating a dementia-friendly Kiama.
“The important thing to understand is that you need to know the community in which you’re working. The advice I’d always give to other projects trying to work in this space is to start with something small, something that you can achieve, because success breeds success. So if you find you start to get some traction in this space then go with that. Don’t doggedly stick to something because that’s what you planned to do initially,” said Nick Guggisberg, Community and Cultural Development Manager from the Kiama Municipal Council.
This project was made possible with the generous support, partnership and funding from:
Most importantly, its successes were a result of the hard work of local volunteers, plus people living with and alongside dementia, in particularly the Southern Dementia Advisory Group.