Research Impact


Dementia friendly communities

UOW partners with Alzheimer’s Australia and Kiama Municipal Council on an Australian first project

A partnership to empower people living with dementia by promoting civic participation and social inclusion has formed the basis of a national program building dementia-friendly communities.

The collaboration began when Alzheimer’s Australia invited the University of Wollongong, supported through its interdisciplinary research program Global Challenges, to join them in Australia’s first pilot project to develop a dementia-friendly community.

The town of Kiama, on NSW’s South Coast, was chosen for the pilot due to its proximity to UOW, the town’s ageing demographic, and the keen interest of the Kiama Municipal Council, who were already working towards becoming an aged-friendly town.

Research in Kiama included interviews and mapping exercises with people with dementia and their carers, community and business surveys, piloting a dementia-friendly business toolkit and the development of an environmental assessment tool for use in the auditing of public buildings.

Formative research activities guided the Action Plan of a local Dementia Alliance and Dementia Advisory Group. Evaluative research activities monitored inputs, outputs, impacts and outcomes of the project.

As well as empowering people living with dementia to have a voice regarding their needs in the community, a key achievement of the project has been winning the Disability and Access Inclusion category at the National Local Government awards (2016) and the Excellence in Community Partnerships Award at the National Disability Awards (2016). It was also recognised internationally, at the World Health Organization’s 7th Global Conference for the Alliance of Healthy Cities 2016.

Led by Dr Lyn Phillipson, from the UOW Faculty of Social Sciences, said the ‘Kiama Dementia Friendly Community’ project has improved community understanding and increased positive attitudes with regard to the capabilities of people living with dementia.

This has been achieved through media advocacy, community education sessions (with more than 1,000 attendances) and the development of new information resources including the ‘Dementia Illawarra Shoalhaven’ website ( all in active partnership with people with dementia.

Outcomes in the physical environment include the initial development of the Dementia Friendly Communities Environmental Assessment Tool (DFC-EAT) and the establishment of the ‘Our Place’ Kiama web interface. The ‘Our Place’ maps crowd source and share information about dementia-friendly places.

The model and tools developed as part of the pilot project have informed Alzheimer’s Australia’s $3.9 million ‘National Dementia Friendly Communities Strategy’, funded by the Department of Health, to establish more dementia-friendly communities across Australia.  

Dr Phillipson’s work with Alzheimer’s Australia on the national strategy continues through her contribution on the National Steering Committee.

Meanwhile, the partnership continues to support Kiama Council in sustaining future dementia-friendly community action and in partnering with other local organisations such as IRT, Bluehaven Care and Playgroups NSW.

More information on this project:

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Partner organisations

Alzheimer’s Australia
Kiama Municipal Council

UOW participants

Dr Lyn Phillipson, Dr Chris Brennan-Horley, Prof. Richard Fleming, Dr Danika Hall, Dr Elizabeth Cridland, Prof. Helen Hasan