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Ballarat leads the way with first dementia friendly bush trail

Members of the Ballarat community living with dementia will soon be able to see, smell, touch and hear nature all thanks to a nationally supported local community initiative dedicated to creating the states, and maybe the nations, first Dementia Friendly Sensory Walk.

A new dementia friendly nature trail is being developed in Ballarat, Victoria (Source: Shutterstock)
A new dementia friendly nature trail is being developed in Ballarat, Victoria (Source: Shutterstock)

The “gentle bush trail” in Ballarat’s Woowookarung Regional Park is the vision of the dedicated Ballarat Dementia Alliance, who put the concept forward to Dementia Australia for support through their new round of Dementia Friendly Community Grants.

Dementia Australia’s Client Services Operation Manager, Belinda Nixon says the peak body, who had never heard of anything like it in Australia before, were happy to jump at the chance to support such a unique initiative that was born in the community.

“It is so great, fantastic and thrilling that people are thinking outside of the box,” Ms Nixon says.

“When we looked at the proposal put together by the go-getters of the Ballarat Dementia Alliance we saw that it was something that hadn’t been done before so we chose to fund it with our grants.

“We were intrigued that is was a concept they came up with based on their experiences and what was good for the community and those within it living with dementia.

“As an organisation we are driven by consumers and their needs and they are the experts, so if they give us ideas about what will work for them, we are absolutely willing to look at it and if we can fund it.”

As well as incorporating Dementia Australia and the Ballarat Dementia Alliance, the development of the Dementia Friendly Sensory Walk is also being supported by the Parks Victoria Area Chief Ranger Siobhan Rogan and her team.

“The Dementia Friendly Sensory Walk in Woowookarung Regional Park will be a gentle bush trail that allows people to see, smell, touch and hear nature and will be based on Dementia Australia’s Dementia Friendly Communities Checklist,” Ms Rogan says.

“We know that being active in nature is good for our health, and dementia research also suggests that the right kind of sensory stimulation can reduce anxiety and agitation, and help with the recall of positive memories.”

Dementia Australia also see multiple benefits of the trail, noting the health, prevention and social benefits.

“So many young and old people living with dementia still want to be active and what a great concept this is for getting them out and about and doing exercise and bringing the community together,” Ms Nixon says.

“It not only has exercise and fitness benefits, it is something that the whole family can get involved in, and it provides connections to the community for people living with dementia who we know can often become isolated and lonely.

“This really ties in well not only for people living with dementia as well as those looking for risk reduction.”

The walk is set to include a dementia-friendly trail design such as clear and extensive signage, shorter loops as well as seating.

Work is starting and is expected to start later this year and be completed within the next 18 months.

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