Closing the gap on dementia
Alzheimer’s Australia has launched an Australian-first dementia risk reduction program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (ATSI), in response to growing dementia prevalence.
Dementia affects the ATSI community earlier in life, with 73 percent of dementia cases amongst Aboriginal Australians occurring between the age of 60 and 70; compared to 70+ years for the majority of non-Aboriginal Australians.
Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torre Strait Island Dementia Advisory Group (NATSIDAG), Fred Tanner said any reduction in prevalence or delay in the onset of dementia can help preserve a person’s connection to country, family and self.
“Delaying or preventing the loss of many of the stories and traditions that are carried verbally through generations can have a considerable impact on the community,” Mr Tanner said.
“The Your Brain Matters program aims to improve the brain health of all Australians. There is no cure for dementia, but we know that keeping mentally stimulated, fit and healthy and looking after our hearts can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.”
Alzheimer’s Australia CEO, Glenn Rees said the greater dementia prevalence heralds the growing gap between the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, noting that preliminary results from the Koori Growing Old Well Study - a census of all resident Aboriginal people aged 60+, across five urban and regional Indigenous communities - found that the prevalence of dementia over 60 years is more than 13 percent in Aboriginal Australians and 21 percent when adjusted for the younger age of the Indigenous population.
“This is three times the general Australian rate of 6.8 percent,” Mr Rees said.
The resources include culturally relevant brochures and a video presented by respected members of Aboriginal communities, including Shari Sebbens from the hit film The Sapphires.
The director of ‘Your Story Matters’ Ben Graetz said “The resources have been developed with the community. Everything from the language and music used, through to the focus on preserving stories and culture, is designed by my people, for our people. It’s about encouraging conversations and prevention within the community.”
The resources will be used by relevant health workers, carers and families of Aboriginal people with dementia and be launched by director Ben Graetz at 396 Stuart Highway, Winnellie on Tuesday 4 March 5pm ACST.
The Your Story Matters resource aims to communicate five main messages:
- Look after your heart: always ask staff at the clinic to check your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight and avoid smoking
- Keep your body active: exercise is good for the brain. Playing sports, swimming, walking and dancing helps keep your brain healthy
- Keep your brain thinking: mental exercise is good for the brain. Learn new words and skills by reading and yarning with others
- Eat a healthy balanced diet: eat two pieces of fruit and five serves of vegetables everyday. Too much alcohol is bad for your health
- Mix well with others: talk to your mob, do things with your family and friends
To view a copy of the resources click here.
 Broe T, NeuRA (Neuroscience Research Australia). Koori Growing Old Well Study, May 2013