Surrounded by rugged mountains and 90 minutes by road from the nearest regional centre, Corryong is a beautiful town but with the highest prevalence of dementia in Victoria.
That’s why the town, led by The Centre for Continuing Education and the Towong Shire Council, are working hard to make their community dementia-friendly.
The Centre for Continuing Education is a non-profit community-based organisation and in 2018, The Centre received a $15,000 grant from Dementia Australia to engage a project officer to lead a community-based steering group.
The steering group consists of a person living with dementia, a carer, a dementia specialist from Corryong Health, the project officer, and other interested community members including the local radio announcer who has used his platform to communicate with a greater and increasingly diverse audience throughout the district.
The group chose to focus on three specific activities during the funded period (2018/19):
- raising community awareness of dementia and debunk myths through two workshops facilitated by Dementia Australia – one for community members and one for business and emergency services,
- engaging the community to better understand the impacts of dementia through a screening of the movie Still Alice which sold-out, and
- creating appropriate resources for the local community – a postcard sized fridge magnet and notepad with local dementia-specific health information.
According to Tom Mitten, Program Leader of Sport North East at The Centre for Continuing Education, there were a number of unexpected consequences of the project.
“We want to create a community ecosystem of support for people impacted by dementia. The council has really jumped on board and we hope that many of our initiatives are adopted in other towns in the region,” Mr Mitten said.
“The Towong Shire has also identified social isolation and the importance of people connecting to their community, particularly the ageing populating, in their five-year Health and Wellbeing Plan.
“Corryong Health, the local health service, has also been very supportive and plan to run a cognitive stimulation group.”
Lessons learnt along the way
The group also encountered many challenges along the way and have highlighted some important lessons to impart to other communities looking to start similar initiatives.
- Finish or pause projects over the holiday period such as Christmas, as engagement with the community over that time is very challenging
- Consider what skill sets are needed for the steering group or alliance right at the outset and target key organisations and community members to meet the skill gaps
- Aim to engage a member of the local emergency service in the alliance/steering group
- Run awareness sessions as part of other community group meetings such as probus, rotary etc, to target a captive and influential audience
- Widely share the online resources to sign up to be a Dementia Friend, as this enables local businesses to sign-up at their convenience.
Are you interested in what this could look like in your community? The first step is to become a Dementia Friend. Find out more at dementiafriendly.org.au or call our National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500.