THERE was one man in Christine Hickson’s community art class who drew lots of meticulous fences. Rows and rows of them.
The group had been talking about farming and history as he started to draw. A forming fencing contractor, he measured and ruled everything on his page.
It was his story.
Ms Hickson is a Ballarat North Neighbourhood House’s artist-in-residence who mentors a group of people living with dementia. She will be part of a story catching team for 100 stories, a 12-month project to tell the tales and passions of people living with dementia across Ballarat through varying art forms.
The project, which officially started on Tuesday, aims to break the stigma of dementia. It follows the Bigger Hearts movement for a dementia-friendly Ballarat and the first stories will be unveiled at the National Dementia and Love Symposium in Ballarat in February.
Yvonne Bedford found support through the Bigger Hearts’ Tuesday at the Turret coffee and chats, having been newly diagnosed with dementia.
Diagnosis was a confronting prospect for Mrs Bedford, who had nursed her mother-in-law through dementia in what she said was not a happy time. But with support, she could mix with other women of similar experience and interests.
Mrs Bedford said she had control for the moment to get out and keep living her life to the fullest, like visiting Melbourne on the train and exploring the city with her husband of 66 years, Ron.
“I love knitting. I used to sew as well but I’ve knit since I was 11 years ago and it comes naturally,” Mrs Bedford said. “I love gardening and reading. I still like to read when I get the time. We get out a lot.”
Ballarat North and Wendouree neighbourhood centres are key partners in story collecting for the project.
Wendouree Neighbourhood Centre’s Manya Ferwerda said dementia was too often a hidden diagnosis, due to stigma, and there were more people living with it across Ballarat than many would realise.
“I can see a lot of people have it but are not readily talking about it,” Ms Ferwerda said. “Especially in the early stages, there can still be a lot of difficulty with anger and emotions.”
Both community houses are part of a consortium with City of Ballarat, Celebrate Ageing and supported by Alzheimer’s Australia Victoria on the project under a grant from the Helen MacPherson Smith Trust, which promotes positive change in Victorian communities.