Alzheimer's Australia CEO John Watkins visits Kiama

NETWORK MEETING: Roy Wakelin-King (left) and John Watkins during the chamber event at Kiama last week. Picture: BRENDAN CRABB

NETWORK MEETING: Roy Wakelin-King (left) and John Watkins during the chamber event at Kiama last week. Picture: BRENDAN CRABB

HOW businesses within the Kiama municipality can become more dementia friendly was a key topic discussed last week. 

The Kiama and District Business Chamber and Kiama council hosted a network meeting at the Sebel Harbourside on Thursday to discuss dementia within the business and wider communities. 

Topics discussed included the Dementia Friendly Kiama Project, and why being dementia friendly is good for business. 

Guest speakers were Alzheimer’s Australia NSW CEO John Watkins; Roy Wakelin-King, CEO NSW Taxi Council; and Dennis Frost, chairman of the Kiama Dementia Friendly Advisory Group.

New dementia figures for 2016 show more people than ever will be living with the condition this year.

The figures, prepared for Alzheimer’s Australia NSW by Deloitte Access Economics, show the number of people estimated to be living with dementia in NSW has risen to almost 115,000.

That figure is expected to continue to rise to more than 128,500 people by 2020 and an estimated 272,000 people by 2050 if a cure or significant medical breakthrough is not found.

“Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia, after heart disease, and there is no cure,” Mr Watkins said.

In the Kiama state electorate there is estimated to be 1450 people living with dementia, which is expected to increase to an estimated 1650 people by 2020 and 3400 by 2050.

Mr Watkins told the crowd about how dementia will impact on the Kiama community in the future, as well as discussing Kiama as a dementia-friendly community.

“Being a dementia-friendly community requires the involvement and co-operation of businesses,” he said.

“One initiative that Kiama has embraced, ahead of anywhere else in NSW other than Port Macquarie is a dementia-friendly community, where businesses get together with the council, here with the university and community groups and say, ‘how can we make our community more accessible, more dementia-friendly?’

“Some of it’s physical; better signage, better seating, lighting. Some of it’s training, such as ensuring people who work in a coffee shop, a bank or a community facility know what dementia is, so they react to it appropriately when they see it.”

Mr Frost, who is 61 and has dementia, wished to raise awareness. “Hopefully we might have given some of the businesspeople some ideas that they might find useful in their day-to-day activities, and also an idea of the scope of the problem in general within the region,” he said. “I will be presenting the story of our project in Kiama to the international conference in Budapest later this year.”

Mr Watkins encouraged the community to join the race against dementia and help raise more than $100,000 by participating in the Illawarra Memory Walk & Jog on Sunday, February 28 at Stuart Park, Wollongong.