The 'Dementia-Friendly Communities and Organisations' Initiative

The Initiative funded by the Global Challenges Program, will see the UOW team with Alzheimer's Australia. Dr Lyn Phillipson explains….

Lyn and Richard pic

The increasing prevalence of dementia in our society, demands a shift in the social environments (attitudes, stigma, inclusion, organisational culture, and service delivery) and the physical environments (the land, buildings, furniture, public spaces, housing and transportation) within which we live. The creation of ‘Dementia Friendly Communities and Organisations’ requires systems of support that recognise the experience of people with dementia, and strategies to best provide assistance for them to remain engaged in everyday life in a meaningful way. 

“We know that our ability to maintain social connectedness and participation in meaningful activities contributes significantly to the overall quality of life for people as they age,” Dr Lyn Phillipson (pictured above with Prof. Richard Fleming) said.

“Whilst we know something of the features of cities and towns, which must be taken into consideration, that make a place ‘age-friendly’, we know much less about the particular priorities of those living with dementia and their carers. In response, this project looks to provide communities and organisations with practical information and strategies that will prioritise the consultation and contribution of people living with dementia and their carers to ensure that any age-friendly strategies are also dementia friendly,” she said.

By its very nature, the creation of Dementia-friendly communities and organisations, is a complex and multidimensional task, which can only be met by a dedicated collaboration of the community, researchers, service-providers and policy makers from a variety of backgrounds.

The Team

An expert multidisciplinary team from UOW will be joining with Alzheimer’s Australia during the initial planning and pilot phase of an Australian ‘Dementia Friendly Communities and Organisations’ initiative. The team, led by Dr Lyn Phillipson (Population Health) is: Professor Richard Fleming (Environmental Design), Professor Sandra Jones (Social Marketing), Associate Professor Peter Caputi (Psychology), Professor Chris Cook (Engineering), Dr Chris Brennan-Horley (Human Geography), Professor Andrew Bonney (Medicine), Helen Hasan (Information Systems) and Dr Christopher Magee (Psychology).

“My particular area of interest is ensuring that research methodology is inclusive and facilitates the participation of people with dementia and their carers. So often, due to the perceived ethical and practical challenges of including people with dementia in research, their voices are frequently not heard,” Dr Phillipson said.
“I also have particular interest in the stigma surrounding dementia and the way that this impacts on social inclusion and utilisation of health and social care. This project has a particular focus on understanding how we can improve the capacity of communities and organisations in both of these important areas.”
“One of my colleagues on the team, Prof Richard Fleming, will also be given a significant opportunity to continue his work in the design of environments to improve the quality of life and participation of people with dementia. Whilst Richard’s previous work has focused on residential care and acute care (hospital) environments, this project will facilitate the translation of this expertise into community environments and public spaces as well, which is very exciting,” she said.

The Approach

This UOW Research initiative will utilise an ‘action-research’ approach to support the development of a multidimensional model to guide both the implementation and evaluation of the program during 2014. Action research is being increasingly used within translation projects due to its focus on assisting identification of both real-world problems and solutions.


• Partnerships – developed through the support of an active collaboration between UOW academics from distinct discipline backgrounds; Alzheimer’s Australia; and people with dementia (and their carers)
• Formative research – conducted within each academic discipline to assist with conceptualisation of a multidisciplinary model and its component parts to support the ‘Dementia Friendly Communities’ initiative
• Pilot data – collected from initial pilot ‘Communities’ (during 2014) to assist in problem definition, as well as inform strategies and evaluate their impact
• Publications - articles describing the processes which support the development of a model for implementation and development of the initiative
“The potential of this project to improve the quality of life and participation of people with dementia is enormous. We look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as we work with our industry partner, Alzheimer’s Australia as part of responding to the global challenge to live well, longer,” Dr Phillipson said.

For more information about the Alzheimer’s Australia vision for creating Dementia Friendly Communities and Organisations see: 


Last reviewed: 29 April, 2016
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