Dementia Friends

A History of the introduction of Dementia Friends to Australia 

People affected by dementia  were consulted re: the choice of a seahorse as the symbol we used to create a distinctive logo in very visible (to all ages) colours.  This symbol is used to identify people and places as dementia friendly.

David Renn, a very successful commercial artist took time away from his busy career to create the logo and thus honour a very dear friend Janis, who is living with dementia. Janis and her friends at Come Dance With Me, a dementia friendly dance group, were instrumental in selecting the seahorse as our symbol and they were delighted with David’s work.

Hippocampus is the Greek name for seahorse, a part of the brain essential for short term memory. Alzheimer’s disease damages the hippocampus, creating difficulties in the realm of being able to remember what is happening in the here and now.

On the other hand, we know, with exercise the hippocampus can grow more cells to be used to improve memory. As little as three brisk walks, of 45 minutes duration per week, leads to a visible increase in the size of the hippocampus. Dance is even better. It is physical, social and can include new learning.

2016 – Charleville Mayor leads the way to making her town a Dementia Friendly Place

In July, 2016, I was in Charleville to present a Creativity and Dementia Workshop. I took the opportunity and talked to Mayor Annie Liston about  Dementia Friends and what I see as their essential role in creating dementia friendly communities. Previous experience working with Annie had taught me this, give her a good idea and/or show her a better way of doing something and she is tireless and inspiring, in making it happen. As expected Annie immediately embraced the value of the concept of Dementia Friends as the means she and her team would use to establish Charleville as a DementiaFriendlyTown_0810And so it was, with enthusiasm, hard work, Charleville, officially became the first town in Australia where ordinary people from every kind of service and business took advantage of two hours of free Dementia Awareness training and thus prepared themselves to become Dementia Friends.

I presented the two hour education sessions over two days. One day not being enough for everyone who wanted to attend and still keep their business running.  Subsequently,  a wide cross section of Charleville people became Dementia Friends, ready and able, as they have since proved, to make their town even more Dementia Friendly.

Individuals, who attend awareness sessions subsequently wear the distinctive Seahorse lapel badges

DementiaFriend_0810  ©Beverley Giles, 2016

A Dementia Friend Badge conveys a simple message: the person wearing this badge is willing and able to provide assistance, to any person living with dementia. The essence of it all is understanding, patience and kindness.

A Dementia Friend’s employer is entitled to display a badge designating the business or service as a dementia friendly place.

It will take you less than 4 minutes to watch a video demonstrating why  this Dementia Friends make such a difference. Google:  Small Changes Help Make a Dementia Friendly Community

The Alzheimer’s  Society in the UK has led the way. In England, as of now February 2019, more than 2.5 million people have registered as Dementia Friends. Isn’t it marvellous, all ages, different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, no matter, all these people  willingly assist people living with dementia to continue as valuable members of their communities.

Some of us are not interested in attending meeting that go nowhere, nor are we interested in wasting money on  glossy publications or token actions.

What works is a combination of local Enthusiasts, supported by local councils and service clubs. Rotary, RSL, CWA, Lions, have all been involved. 

Real Leaders are ordinary people with passion and commitment, they don’t just talk, they DO.

Begin with Dementia awareness education and make good things happen now.

With Dementia Friends leading the way, the next step is action groups to identify the environmental and other changes necessary to make a town, through its people, dementia friendly.

Creative pursuits, especially dancing, present a very positive image and they are good for the brain. They have the potential to reduce the risk of dementia and assist those living with it to create new neural connections, whilst making friends, having fun and generally putting joy back into their lives.

A Celebratory Ball is the perfect occasion to launch a Dementia Friendly Place.

In September 2016, Charleville launched their town as dementia friendly with a Spring Ball, North Stradbroke was next (see images below) followed by the Come Dance with Me group, supported by WaW Dance at Metro  Woolloongabba.



In April 2016, Community Nurse Kate Whiley, attended a Creativity and Dementia workshop where I presented the case for dementia friendly towns, with Dementia Friends as the key concept.

I  said: “Kate, you do the work and I’ll donate my time and come back and do awareness training for you, no charge.”

To my delight, Kate took up the challenge and led a campaign to make Inglewood dementia friendly. The response from local people was a tribute to her hard work.   50 + people attended a dementia awareness session on 23rd November  and subsequently became Dementia Friends. A second session, also well attended, was held in April 2017.


In spite of what people may have heard, dementia is not the end of person’s ability to continue to participate as an active functioning member of their community.

Dementia causing diseases like Alzheimer’s, limit some functional capacities  e.g. it may be necessary for another person to assist with way finding, shopping, form filling, and generally coping with ordinary activities of daily living.

Most of the time, being a Dementia Friend is about patience, helpfulness and simple acts of kindness many people already do.

A little extra understanding makes a huge difference. Dementia is diagnosed when a person’s brain is not working the way it did before and it is becoming increasingly difficult for him or her to cope with everyday living..

People attending awareness sessions, also learn how age creatively and thus reduce their own risk of dementia.

Use it or lose it, use it and grow some more. We can change the way our brain works. You can increase your cognitive reserve, slow down the ageing process and have lots of fun doing it.

To date, I have presented three Dementia Awareness sessions, at the Minjerriba Respite Centre in Dunwich, supported by then, Manager Mary Burgess and Assistant Manager Cheryl Rodgers.

Local enthusiasts in Texas, supported by their local General Practitioner and Lions Club, organised dementia awareness training for morning and evening on 27th April 2017,  in the Town Hall. More than 100 people from every sector of the local community, offices, shops, community services like police and ambulance, local hospital, post office, bank, they all came and demonstrated a real desire to make their town a dementia friendly place to live.  texasTexas DF sign outside PO Texas Preps and Me

Above Texas Prep Students who had Dementia Awareness education and came up with some really great ideas. they are all set to be Dementia Friends. The school Principal ensured every child from the school (180 pupils), had the opportunity to attend one of four sessions according to their age group. Year 9 & 10 students attended the morning session in the Town Hall.

Music Lists for iPods was very high on their list of things they had the skills to do. This enthusiasm from young people in Years 9 and 10 inspired a visitor from NSW, a Tech Teacher, he vowed to return to his class and immediately get a project launched for local aged care facilities.

I went back to Texas on 27th April, 2018 to join them in a Lantern Parade to celebrate a rewarding year as a dementia friendly town. Subsequently the Texas volunteers have established a dementia friendly garden right in the centre of town. they are planning a day of dance to celebrate what has become known as Orange Ribbon Day, for 2019.

They have also established a fabulous Dementia Friendly Garden right in the centre of town, supplies all paid for and the work done by people with dementia supported by Dementia Friends. No cost, huge gain, what a difference.

Texas Community Garden

The Redland City Dementia Friendly Community Meeting, held on August 10th 2017, was a great success, no doubt due to the tireless efforts of Una Sandiman and Jess from the council. Mayor Karen Williams, spoke at the meeting pledging her support for Redland City becoming the first metropolitan area in Queensland to commit to becoming a dementia friendly place to live  

We followed up on 7th September, when I presented the first Redlands Free Dementia Friend Awareness Education, at Thorneside Community Hall. It was very well attended by an enthusiastic group of people who are keen to see changes for the better for people affected by dementia who live in their community.

After the awareness session, an Action Group was established to begin the practical work that will make Redlands dementia friendly in more than name. Led by Shona McKenzie and her collaborators work toward setting up a dementia friendly community garden right in the centre of Cleveland is due to start soon.

Dementia does not take away a person’s ability to continue enjoying life, it does make it difficult, even impossible for them to organise these oh so valuable social events without a little help from their friends

If not now when? If not you, who

If not now when? If not you who?

Creative dance as offered to people with dementia in the Come Dance With Me class, has the potential to bring joy and purpose into the lives of people living with dementia. At last, something wonderful for a person to do where there is no wrong way, only their way.

Dance and movement generally, focus on strengths and abilities, on personal potential, rather than difficulties and deficits. People with dementia still have so much to offer and the joy and fulfilment dance brings, should be a readily available right, wherever a person lives, whether at home or in a residential care facility.

St George is the latest town where local Enthusiasts, supported and funded by Rotary organised 4 awareness sessions which were well attended by people representing council, local clubs, services and just generally taken with the idea there is something every one of us  can do to make living with dementia better than  would otherwise be.

New Dementia Friends St George 2017      Dancing for joy in St George

Patrice Robinson, who, with long time Enthusiast Terri Lee (pictured above Left, Terri is fourth from the right) , started the whole process in St George. Soon after the first awareness education sessions Rotary members began work toward  converting a lovely park Rotary established by the beautiful Balonne River, into a Dementia Friendly Community Garden, a place where a person living with dementia can go with family or friends to grow things, assist in maintenance or simply relax safely. The local CWA (their 2019 president picture above first right) and the Men’s Shed, are just two of the local groups already involved.

I went back n 18th May to present another awareness session and join in the exciting event where they unveiled their Dementia Friendly town signs. Signs have now been placed at each entrance to the town, great idea.

Some additional,lovely news from St George concerns the ongoing success of the Movement and Dance Group established with great enthusiasm by local Community Nurse and Rotary Club and CWA members in. Note the joy on the faces of the people in the images on the Poster below, that’s  all one needs to

St George Dance Group 2019 Poster Pic

More images from the Charleville 150 Year Anniversary Parade including Dementia Friendly and Healthy Ageing Lantern Floats, held  in September last year. I was there and the turn out and support from the town was inspiring.

Lantern float Creative ageing side of the float