There are calls for Newcastle to become the pilot site for Australia’s first dementia-friendly city.
The Arts Health Institute developed the ‘Reach Out Newcastle’ initiative in collaboration with organisations such as Newcastle Council, the University of Newcastle and Alzheimer’s Australia.
The pilot has not yet attracted funding, and CEO Maggie Haertsch says change is crucial if people with dementia are expected to live at home longer.
Dr Haertsch says attitudinal change and a whole-of-community approach is key to making Newcastle more dementia-friendly.
“Destigmatising dementia so that people understand what dementia is and how people might behave when they’re a bit confused or have memory issues,” she said.
“You look at the design of streets and the lighting.
“But most importantly it’s about the people.
“How people in essential services, like a post office or in a supermarket, how they might be more patient with someone as they are trying to make a decision.”
Dr Haertsch says dementia is a growing epidemic and it is not a disease that only affects the elderly.
“We essentially need some funding to really kick this off,” she said.
“I think that tour operators, people who are involved with cafes and so on, can certainly be looking at how they can become more dementia-friendly.
“Having more places for people to sit when they’re going walking around the city is going to be important.
“This to me is a golden opportunity to make a really inclusive, friendly city.”