Living Well, Longer

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Dementia-Friendly Communities and Organisations

The ProjectGC-Dementia2

Research and Action to Pioneer Dementia-Friendly Communities and Organisations has the potential to change both the way people with dementia interact with their social, cultural and physical environments and, in turn, the way society responds to those living with the syndrome. 

The project, conducted in conjunction with Alzheimer’s Australia, will focus on the implementation and evaluation of two pilot dementia-friendly communities and organisation in Australia during with researchers collecting data from both communities and organisations during 2014. 

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, Dr Phillipson says. 

“People with dementia often feel socially isolated and experience stigma and discrimination after their diagnosis. Environments have also not often been designed in a way that supports the independence of people with dementia , so we will need to see a shift in both the social and physical environments in which we live,” Dr Phillipson says. “We need to create communities where people understand dementia and where there are opportunities for engagement to enable those with dementia to live in their communities with meaning, purpose and quality of life.” 

The Dementia-Friendly Communities and Organisations project brings together researchers from a range of disciplines. The researchers will use an action-research approach to develop a model to guide the implementation of the initiative and collect data from pilot communities and organisations. 

 “The ageing population means that everyone will eventually be impacted by the need for dementia-friendly societies. It’s about how we can improve the health, homes, technology, social interaction, access to shops and banks, way-finding and physical surroundings to support the active participation of people with dementia," Dr Phillipson says. “It certainly is a global challenge.”

Project Outcomes and Publications

This pilot project has been conducted in Kiama and the learnings will be scaled and applied more broadly. To date the team has undertaken: structured interviews with people with dementia; explored community dementia awareness, attitudes and strategies for change; focus groups with organisations and Geographic Information System (GIS), as well as mental mapping of dementia friendly and unfriendly places. This team has secured external funding and great interest from the community.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised the ground-breaking efforts of the Kiama Council's Health Plan and in particular the Dementia Friendly Kiama Project on 31 August, 2016.

This project was awarded Vice-Chancellor's Award For Interdisciplinary Research Excellence in June 2015.

Check out the Dementia Friends Initiative in Kiama, NSW held in November 2015.

Dementia Friendly Communities ImpactOutcomes and Publications



The Researchers

Dementia-Friendly Communities and Organisations brings together researchers from diverse fields, include public health, geography, medicine, information systems and technology. 

Dr Lyn Phillipson is a public health academic and social marketer. She is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Health and Society and Associate Director of the Centre for Health Initiatives in UOW’s Faculty of Social Sciences.

Dr Ellen Skladzien is the National Policy Manager for Alzheimer’s Australia. 

Professor Richard Fleming is a Professorial Fellow in UOW’s Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health. 

Professor Chris Cook, former Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, UOW (now retired)

Dr Chris Brennan-Horley is an ARC DECRA Fellow in Human Geography in the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Assoc Professor Helen Hasan is an expert in information systems in the Australian Health Services Research Institute in UOW’s Faculty of Business

Dr Elizabeth Cridland is a clinical psychologist and an Associate Research Fellow in the Centre for Health Initiatives in UOW’s Faculty of Social Sciences.

Dr Danika Hall is a social marketer in the Centre for Health Initiatives in the Faculty of Social Sciences. 

Expert Reference Panel: Prof Andrew Bonney (Graduate School of Medicine, Science Medicine and Health), A/Prof Peter Caputi (School of Psychology, Social Sciences)​, Dr Christopher Magee (Centre for Health Initiatives, Social Sciences), Ms Cathie Andrew (School of Health and Society, Social Science), Mr Gregor Cullen (School of Art and Design, Faculty of Creative Arts).