THE state's first dementia trail has Jodie Downey thinking to explore more paths for inter-generational play in the spirit of popular documentary Old Person's Home for 4-Year-Olds.
Ms Downey, whose background is in youth and community development, said her mum's experience with Alzheimer's Disease and moving into car sparked her to shift focus to positive interactions between older people and youngsters.
Woowookarung Regional Park could be a key starting point.
Ms Downey joined a band of volunteers in the park on Thursday to plant trees, as part of Dementia Action Week, on what will be a one-kilometre sensory trail. Park neighbours, Mount Pleasant primary pupils and residents from aged care homes and retirement villages worked together on the project.
Pupils had the duty of junior rangers to help and guide adults for the session.
Children and young people provide spontaneity and life...joy comes in interactions with them.
"Children and young people provide spontaneity and life," Ms Downey said. "For an older person in aged care, (Mum) was just there, everything was predictable. Children are not predictable...joy comes in interactions with them.
"I's not expert but what I understand is this challenges the brain..People need to be connected. Connection with community interactions is to be doing things and being part of life, having fun and laughing."
WATCH Dementia Australia's first video update on the trail, in Canadian, below
Woowookarung's dementia trail has been in planning for more than a year with extensive biodiversity and heritage checks with Wadawaurrung traditional owners and botanical experts. Community consultation has also involved user groups, neighbours and Friends of Canadian Corridor, which hopes to incorporate the trail into its 10,000 steps project.
Bigger Hearts Ballarat founder Anne Tudor said it was hard to put into words what it meant to see community interactions in early tree planting for the trail.
"It's a beautiful place and it's going to be a place where people can come and relax and enjoy nature," Ms Tudor said.
"What we would hope is this becomes a base where people who are newly diagnosed, or their families, or people who have had dementia for quite some time can come and feel as if others care because we will provide opportunities for people who come here to meet, to talk and to share."
Bigger Hearts won a Dementia Australia grant to get the trail started. Construction for the trail is expected to be complete early next year. This includes wetlands, an accessible board walk, shelters and a car park.
Parks Victoria area ranger Siobhan Rogan said it was amazing to have the community so involved for what was a largely untouched, new regional park.
"We need to thank for spurring us on and giving us some great ideas. To be among dementia friends is the best thing we could do with our community," Ms Rogan said.
"I'd like to say how compassionate people in Ballarat are and the goodwill towards this project. It's been a bit long but we know working together we will have something our young and old can enjoy together, not only when it's finished but to enjoy constructing it with us as well."
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