Thousands of New Zealanders took to the streets this weekend to remember those close to us with dementia and to help make this a more dementia-friendly country.
Memory Walks were held in 21 locations around New Zealand as part of World Alzheimers Month. The aim is to raise further awareness and acceptance of dementia as a widespread condition.
A 2012 global survey of people who have been diagnosed with dementia (including New Zealanders) revealed that 40% experience being stigmatised by the condition. They report not being included in some aspects of everyday life, feeling marginalised by society, and experiencing loss of friends and isolation.
Twenty percent are so afraid of the stigma that they conceal their diagnosis from others.
“In this environment, dementia is often viewed with the same fear that used to accompany HIV or cancer,” said Catherine Hall, Chief Executive, Alzheimers NZ.
“The Memory Walks are about changing that perception, because with the right awareness, acceptance and support services, people with dementia can lead fulfilling lives for many years”, she said.
Champion for Dementia, Kerry Prendergast and New Zealand’s former Sale of the Century television presenter Steve Parr, joined the Memory Walk in Wellington. It was Steve’s first walk for dementia and he has flown from Brisbane specially to take part.
“My mother Jeannie is in the advanced stages of dementia and it has been heart-breaking to watch the effects on the gentle, but strong and independent mother I know,” he said.
“Having now seen the shocking statistics on dementia – about 60,000 Kiwis have the condition and two in three people are affected by this in some way – I wanted to show my support and help raise awareness and reduce the stigma.”
“There’s so much we can do together to be more dementia friendly – we can reach out to people we know with the condition, we can include them in our lives and activities, we can focus on their abilities instead of their disabilities,” said Catherine Hall.
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