PASSIONATE young champions are breaking down the stigma on dementia in Ballarat in powerful, far-reaching ways, a long-time advocate for the disease says.
Anne Tudor, who with partner Edie, was instrumental in launching a dementia-friendly Ballarat campaign three years ago. Ms Tudor said the work of young adults Brittany Rose, Meg Curnow and Nick Locandro was taking what it means to be dementia-friendly to a whole new level.
Balarat's first Memory Walk and Jog set out about Lake Wendouree on Saturday morning in tribute to Ms Rose's grandfather Harold McKenzie, who died with vascular dementia last year.
This follows in the footsteps of Ms Curnow's golf day fundraiser in late February and Mr Locandro's Ride to Remember from Uluru to Ballarat late last year.
"Every single cent raised will be used well by Dementia Australia...but it's now really just about awareness anymore," Ms Tudor said. "It's about attitudes and I can see attitudes changing the past three years.
"...These young people are showing care and becoming part of the problem-solving."
About 60 people took part in the inaugural event, setting out near Loreto College under a prominent blow-up arch to complete a lap of the lake. This was exactly what Harold McKenzie would do, walk a lap of the lake, every morning and chatting to those he met along the way - rail, hail or shine.
For Brittany and his family, this seemed a fitting spot to walk in his honour.
Ms Tudor said memory walks across the nation were based on advice that what was good for the heart was good for the brain including physical and social activity. She said the walks were also a way to help remind people that, while a diagnosis could be devastating, there were years of good living ahead.
More than 3,100 Ballarat people are living with dementia.
This is projected to increase to almost 4,300 Ballarat people in the next decade and to 7,000 by 2058, according to Dementia Australia. Dementia is the second biggest cause of death in Australia.
Ms Curnow and her mum Wilma has early on-set dementia proudly worked alongside Ms Rose as event organisers on the morning.
They, like Mr Locandro whose dad Sam had early on-set dementia, aim to spark important conversations with loved ones and promote community patience and kindness for those living with dementia and their loved ones.
Ms Rose's grandmother Ruth McKenzie said Harold would have been so proud and pleased with the event.
"What Brittany's done is fantastic for the cause and making people aware of this sad disease," Mrs McKenzie said.
"When you say dementia, or when Harold would sometimes take longer to say what he needed to, some people don't know how to handle that. I feel everyone was so kind to him though."
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