How to make a dementia-friendly city

You are not alone is the theme for Dementia Awareness Month and a message to consider for Wednesday’s World Alzheimer’s Day.

A report from Alzheimer’s Australia released this month stated many Australians living with dementia feel socially isolated and highlighted the importance of dementia-friendly communities.

Ballarat locals Anne Tudor and Edie Mayhew have already taken action through their Bigger Hearts campaign. The couple is working towards a dementia-friendly Ballarat by raising awareness on how businesses and the public can make it easier for people with dementia to go about their daily lives.

“We want to see them out of their houses, out of isolation and out in the community. Ideally they will have the confidence to go to a store and say, ‘can you help me? I have dementia’,” Anne said.

“The most important thing to remember is that people with dementia are capable of understanding, but it actually takes them longer to process information so we need to give them more time.”

Director of Celebrate Ageing Dr Catherine Barrett said Ballarat can capitalise on its well-known country hospitality and sense of community.

“What is needed is an [overall] understanding and education for businesses so that people with dementia and their families can go have a coffee, to a concert or a function without having to worry about upsetting anyone.

“The essence of a dementia-friendly community is where community members and services can make connections with people living with dementia.”

Some of the businesses currently working alongside Bigger Hearts include The Western Hotel, Turret Cafe, IGA, Ballarat Community Health Centre, Ballarat City Library, Bendigo Bank, Nazareth House, Ballarat North Neighbourhood House and City of Ballarat.  

Edie Mayhew, the other half of Bigger Hearts, has been living “pretty happily” with dementia the past six years by “just getting on with things”.

“I think you just have to be yourself, you can’t do anymore than that. It’s good to get to the point where you don’t have to worry or think about having dementia.”

For the next six weeks Bigger Hearts will host Tuesdays at the Turret where the community, people with dementia and their carers can meet, interact and support each other from 11am to noon.

For more information visit www.celebrateageing.com/bigger-hearts.html