Among those awarded a share in the $1 million in grant money was Dr Imogen Clark from the University of Melbourne, who received $50,000 as part of the Hazel Hawke Research Grant in Dementia Care.
Dr Clark’s project was one of 17 to receive the funding and says she is set to spend the grant on “exploring the potential” of group songwriting as a means for improving social connection, mental health, wellbeing and quality of life for people with dementia and their family carers.
“Group songwriting, facilitated by a registered music therapist, is an innovative process involving social interaction, mental stimulation and emotional exploration with others in a similar situation to create original songs,” Dr Clark explains.
She adds that the process of the song-writing is expected to help families and couples living with dementia to explore personal resources and challenges, and may assist them to continue “living together in a loving and mutually supportive relationship for as long as possible”.
Songs written during the project will also be performed and recorded to increase public awareness and understanding about what it is like to live with dementia.
As well as funding projects, the Dementia Australia Research Foundation is also supporting four PhD scholars, including one who is preparing to explore and build on ways in which art centres, located in remote Aboriginal communities, are currently providing support to older community members living with dementia.
Dementia Australia Research Foundation Chair, Professor Graeme Samuel, says the grants, like those awarded to Dr Clark and the four scholars, provide “vital support” to early career researchers who were “eager” to make a difference in the field of dementia research.
Adding that it is important to build capacity in the dementia research community by encouraging talented graduates to embark on a career in dementia.
“These grants are highly competitive and sought after in the research sector,” Professor Samuel explains.
“They directly support Australian researchers who are keen to understand the causes of dementia and develop strategies to reduce dementia risk, provide accurate and timely diagnoses and improve treatment and care options for people who live with this disease.
“This funding ensures that new and early career researchers can contribute to our increasing knowledge of dementia.”
Professor Samuel emphasizes the important role researchers will play now and into the future, reflecting on thee statistics that show the number of Australians living with dementia is expected to double by 2056, saying that an established and committed workforce of dementia researchers is “urgently required”.