STATISTICS show Alzheimer's is the second most feared disease among Australians and most feared by older Australians.
By 2050 there will also be close to one million Australians with dementia.
These figures are harrowing but leading performance company KAGE's deeply moving work Sundowner explores the fear, humour and dignity of those living with younger onset dementia.
Showing at Illawarra Performing Arts Centre (IPAC) from March 20-23, Sundowner combines theatre, dance and physicality in an inter-generational story of lament and, at times, grief and sorrow.
Developed by KAGE's co-creative director Kate Denborough and writer David Denborough, with the assistance of Alzheimer's Australia, the work grew out of stories told by people with dementia and their carers for the highly regarded ABC Artscape documentary.
Featuring new and original music by Megan Washington and Paul Kelly, Sundowner highlights that humour, although dark, can play a significant part in the way people cope with the disease.
"It has been a great privilege to create a performance work in direct consultation with those who know most about dementia, and to be able to give a voice to an often unspoken subject," Kate Denborough said.
AFI award winner Helen Morse has been praised for her role in Sundowner, which shifts effortlessly between past and present, drama and dance, memory and hallucination.
"Working on Sundowner has been transformative... we hope to show the huge impact on the family. Love is a keynote," Morse said.
The play takes its name from the so-called Sundowner Syndrome - a heightened anxiety experienced by Alzheimer's sufferers at dusk.
To coincide with the work, Merrigong will also be hosting a Talking Point called Navigating Early Onset Dementia on Saturday from 5pm.
Sundowner performances at IPAC are on today, tomorrow, Friday and Saturday. Visit www.merrigong.com.au or call 4224 5999 to purchase tickets. The Wollongong Dementia/ Alzheimer's Carers Group will be running an awareness program in the IPAC foyer before and after each peformance of the show.