Funding boost for program to reduce dementia risk among Aboriginal elders

A project that aims to provide Aboriginal elders with culturally sensitive information on dementia risk is among recipients of a new grant aimed at improving the lives of older people.

Gaye Finch, a Dementia Advisor for Alzheimers Australia  NSW, chats with Aunty Doris Moore,  at Doris home in Moruya. (Photo: Dave Tease.)
Gaye Finch, a Dementia Advisor for Alzheimers Australia NSW, chats with Aunty Doris Moore, at Doris home in Moruya. (Photo: Dave Tease.)

A project that aims to provide Aboriginal elders with culturally sensitive information on dementia risk is among recipients of a new grant aimed at improving the lives of older people.

A $12,500 grant provided by the IRT Foundation will enable Alzheimer’s Australia NSW, in partnership with Katungul Aboriginal Medical Service, to hold five ‘Aboriginal Dementia Yarn Up’ events in the Bega and Eurobodalla shires, where the Aboriginal population is higher than the national average.

At the events, to be held in November, groups will come together for a nutritional meal that demonstrates the role of healthy eating in brain health and will have the opportunity to discuss dementia risks, symptoms and treatments with experts. Alzheimer’s Australia NSW’s Memory Van will also tour local communities to distribute further resources and discuss dementia with elders, their families and friends.

Barbra Williams, south-east NSW regional manager of Alzheimer’s Australia NSW, explained to Australian Ageing Agenda that each Yarn Up would utilise an informal approach and be tailored, with the help of the medical service, to meet the differing cultural needs of the communities visited.

“A Westernised way of thinking about health and medicine isn’t always culturally the most appropriate for indigenous people, and there are a lot of social determinents that impact their ability to maintain good health,” she said.

“It will be an informal conversation around food, and people will talk about their personal experiences and what they understand dementia and memory loss to be, because dementia is not a word that is commonly used within Aboriginal communities.”

The prevelance rate of dementia is three times higher among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population over 60 compared to the general population. Reducing dementia risk is one method to bridge the gap between the life expectancy of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

“We think that by getting the information out there into the communities and including information for younger people, as well as older people, we can try and influence lifestyle choices across a number of generations,” said Ms Williams, who hopes the pilot program will eventually be expanded to run across Australia.

The IRT Foundation provided $150,000 to 20 programs within its operational regions across NSW, ACT and Queensland as part of the the inaugural round of its Community Grants Program. The provider said the program’s aim was to fund practical initiatives within local communities that improved the lives of older people and make communities more age friendly. The program aimed to provide $20 million by 2020.

“They encompass the areas of digital technology and connectivity, intergenerational cooperation, social inclusion, multicultural celebration, music and dance, and recreation and fitness,” said IRT Group CEO Nieves Murray said of the funded projects. “They will all have a positive impact on the health and quality of life of older Australians.”

National support service for victims of identity crime, iDcare, received $17,000 for its Intergenerational Socialisation Tool, developed with the University of the Sunshine Coast.

iDcare statistics suggest a third of identity theft cases involve older people. The tool will connect high school students with seniors to help educate them on internet access and security. It is to be piloted with local schools and aged care facilities ahead of its scheduled release next year.

“iDcare has identified that older people are particularly susceptible to online and telephone initiated identity theft threats, most of which can be prevented with some basic online security knowledge,” said Ms Murray.

Other recipients include the U3A Network NSW for its Brain Games Project that encourages mental agility in older people, and the Gymea Community Aid & Information Service for its plans to develop a Multicultural Seniors Activity Club for CALD seniors.

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Tags: alzheimers-australia-nsw, iDcare, IRT Foundation, IRT Group, Katungal Aboriginal Medical Service, nieves-murray, university-of-the-sunshine-coast,

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