Dementia Friendly Kiama Pilot Project
(University of Wollongong Global Challenges Program)
Duration: November 2014 – December 2016
Dr Lyn Phillipson, Dr Chris Brennan-Horley, Prof Richard Fleming, Dr Danika Hall, Dr Elizabeth Cridland, Prof Helen Hasan
Approximately 320,000 Australians currently have dementia with that number set to balloon to 1,000,000 by the year 2050. This huge shift demands immediate action to ensure society is able to respond to the needs of those with dementia, and reduce the stigma faced by those living with the symptoms.
The Dementia-friendly Kiama pilot project brings together researchers from a range of disciplines to examine the dementia-friendly features of the physical and social environments in Kiama (New South Wales). The research – a partnership between the University of Wollongong, Kiama Municipal Council, Alzheimer’s Australia and the Kiama community –explores components that contribute to ‘Dementia Friendly Communities and Organisations’ and therefore to the opportunities, challenges and overall quality of life of people living with dementia. Components include the:
- dementia knowledge and attitudes of the community
- design and use of community places and spaces
- design of virtual environments to promote dementia knowledge, help-seeking and service access
- impact of these components on the experiences of people living with dementia including their social and civic participation, neighbourhood involvement, and overall quality of life.
What we did
A range of research has been undertaken to monitor and evaluate the project over the two year pilot phase including:
- Process evaluation and monitoring of activities
- Interviews and surveys with people with dementia and their carers (2014 and 2016)
- Consultation with the Dementia Advisory Group and the Dementia Alliance
- Conduct of two community surveys (2014 and 2016)
- Conduct of two business/community organisation surveys (2014 and 2016).
Empowerment and inclusion of people living with dementia was considered one of the pilot project’s most important achievements. People with dementia and their carers expanded their role to include advocacy and peer support, training and community education, and networking with local organisations. They represented the project on council committees and were spokespeople at community events and national and international forums.
The project was recognised by the Dementia Alliance International as a gold-standard approach to developing Dementia-friendly Communities because of the establishment of and leadership by the Dementia Advisory Group. In addition, Kiama Council received a National Award for Local Government in the Disability Access and Inclusion category (2016) and was recognised by the World Health Organisation at the 7th Global Conference of the Alliance for Healthy Cities for its commitment to the creation of a Dementia-friendly Kiama.
The project has now entered the second phase, with the aim of moving from ‘dementia-friendly’ to ‘dementia enabling’. This has been supported by grants from local business, charities and an Illawarra Retirement Trust Foundation grant. It is hoped the project will continue its successful education program targeting diverse groups, and provide ongoing social inclusion via community events and activities arranged by the Dementia Advisory Group. To ensure the sustainability of the project, additional avenues for funding are required. It is a priority to continue to engage people living with dementia, and increase membership of the Dementia Advisory Group, to ensure people living with dementia and their carers continue to lead the project. Long-term commitment from local government is also critical.