Day 9: Dementia Awareness Month A dementia-friendly WA

Former Perth principal Glenda Parkin works to increase ‘dementia-friendly’ urban design

By Claire Moodie. Updated yesterday at 1:39pm

Most cities are keen to sell themselves as “family-friendly”, but convincing them to become “dementia-friendly” is a much bigger challenge.

A former Perth school principal is backing the push for Perth to take the lead.

Glenda Parkin was just 56 when diagnosed with Benson’s Syndrome, a rare visual variant of Alzheimer’s disease.

“The thing that upsets me the most is that I can’t read,” said Dr Parkin, who was principal at girls school Penrhos College and has lectured at several universities.

“I wrote books, you know, all sorts of things like that and now I can’t even read them. It’s crazy.”

Dr Parkin now tours Australia with her husband, Bronte, raising awareness about dementia and the need for communities to become easier to navigate for people living with the disease.

The couple wants to help change the mindset that dementia affects mainly older people living in nursing homes.

Dementia-friendly urban design

They have been working with Alzheimer’s Australia WA to encourage urban design that is dementia-friendly.

The project’s coordinator Jason Burton says one of the biggest problems is signage.

“It seems so simple but if you get it wrong, it’s actually no use whatsoever to someone with dementia,” he said.

“So simple things like is the sign big enough? Is there enough contrast between the symbol and the background of the sign? Is it well placed?”

Mr Burton cites a current proposal in Melbourne for vertical street signs as a classic example of dementia-unfriendly design.

The WA Government has provided $410,000 for the two-year project which also targets staff training.

The Art Gallery has already trained its staff on how to assist visitors with dementia and a number of banks have signed up for the program.

“For us, it’s really imperative that the people that have day-to-day contact with the public, have that level of training about what dementia is and how to respond to that,” Mr Burton said.

Still an educator

It is an ambitious plan, but Dr Parkin is helping to spread the word, giving a voice to the other 30,700 West Australians living with dementia.

She and Bronte are touring communities in the State’s south west as part of Dementia Awareness Month.

Watch the recording and read more here…

Follow this link to an audio interview;“Simple things can be very frustrating” – Glenda and Bronte Parkin on dementia

Glenda is an inaugural member of the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Advisory Committee, and her full profile can be seen here


3 thoughts on “Day 9: Dementia Awareness Month A dementia-friendly WA

  1. Nice…Glad so many people down there are working to change the world for people with Dementia…It is often overlooked and needs to be highlighted. When people are not themselves afflicted they haven’t a clue as to what those with Dementia struggle with. All of you guys bringing awareness to the subject are doing such a service for others. Thanks Kate for using your diagnosis to better the world for others 🙂 Such a good thing. Blessings to you…VK


  2. Great series of posts for Dementia Awareness month, Kate! This one is particularly relevant to me as I am attending first meeting of national planning group for a ‘Silver Summit’ event here in the UK – not dementia specific but looking at the impact of design and architecture and how to be more ‘friendly’ (focus is older people). Look forward to telling you more and comparing notes when we catch up! Gill xox


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