Australian communities to map local ‘Dementia Friendly’ places

Australian communities to map local ‘Dementia Friendly’ places

Researchers develop unique tool to map ‘dementia friendly places’ in local areas.

Researchers from UOW have developed a first-of-its-kind interactive website that allows users to map ‘dementia friendly places’ in their local area.

‘Our Place’ is designed to assist people with dementia and their supporters to share local knowledge about places in their neighbourhood that are enabling for people with dementia. It also allows users to shares ideas about places that could be improved.

Lead researcher Dr Chris Brennan-Horley, from the Faculty of Social Sciences, said the maps currently focus on Kiama and Darwin, however he hoped to expand it to many local communities around Australia. 

“We all know that local knowledge is important. We rely on locals to tell us about the best features of a place: where we can get a good coffee, where we can find a car park on busy Saturday morning, for example. So why not ‘dementia-friendly’ places?”

Alzheimer’s Australia CEO Carol Bennett said: “this is an exciting piece of research which we look forward to see being developed. It is encouraging to see more consumer directed platforms emerging, whereby people with dementia can support each other in the community to continue to be involved in all the things they enjoyed before they were diagnosed. Access to normal services are at the heart of maintaining high quality of life for people living with dementia.”

Chair of the local Kiama Dementia Advisory Group, Dennis Frost said as a person with dementia, he values the potential of the website to boost his confidence and quality of life.

‘‘I believe the ‘OurPlace’ map will allow me to share my experiences and help me plan how I can move about in the local environment with more confidence,” he said.

Nick Guggisberg, Manager Community & Cultural Development at Kiama Council, said the project would also be an important source of information for the Council who are working with the Kiama Dementia Alliance to improve amenity in the local area.

“The ‘ideas for action’ will be an important source of information for Council in gaining specific advice about areas which could be improved to support our residents with dementia to get out and about in the community.”

Approximately 320,000 Australians currently have dementia, with the incidence of the disease set to rise to almost one million people by 2050.

In 2014, UOW announced the NSW South Coast town of Kiama, which has a significant older population, would be the pilot site for a bold new project aimed at creating dementia-friendly communities throughout Australia. The wider project, led by UOW’s Dr Lyn Phillipson (pictured) as part of the University’s Global Challenges Program, aims to change the way people with dementia interact within their social and physical environments and boost their quality of life.

The ‘Our Place’ mapping dementia friendly places and spaces research project was funded by the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation and is part of the Dementia Friendly Kiama and Dementia Friendly Darwin initiatives.