The film explores the interaction between seven people living with dementia and seven community members, capturing the moving, warm and sometimes funny moments of them sharing their stories and dementia experiences with the community members they call the ‘Story Catchers’.
The conversations were filmed to demonstrate to other community members how important it is to value the expertise of people living with dementia as well as the importance of human connection.
The Bigger Hearts project was launched in September in Ballarat by local campaigners Edie Mayhew and Anne Tudor to help build a more dementia friendly community.
Ms Mayhew is living with dementia and together with her partner and carer Ms Tudor she advocates for a better understanding and more support for people living with dementia.
Through the Bigger Heart project they encourage the community to start thinking about how they can make their environment dementia-friendly and more welcoming for people living with a cognitive impairment.
“The community of Ballarat has totally taken Bigger Hearts to heart. We’ve been delighted by the response to the campaign so far and we are looking forward to sharing more as we progress,” Ms Mayhew says.
Janine Walker, Story Catcher and Leading Senior Constable Ballarat Police Proactive Unit says she was honoured to be part of the Bigger Hearts gatherings and proud of the Ballarat community banding together to break down the stigma around dementia.
“There is no reason why people with dementia can’t be included in all sorts of activities and events in our community. I especially enjoyed listening to the stories and learning about the lives of the people I met, beyond the fact that they are living with dementia,” Leading Senior Constable Walker says.
According to a recent report by Alzheimer’s Australia people living with dementia can continue doing many of the things they did before they were diagnosed with dementia, if they’re supported by the community.
However, research has also shown that people with dementia are twice as likely not to see friends and twice as likely to experience loneliness.
Dr Catherine Barrett, Director Celebrate and Bigger Hearts Project Coordinator highlights that “the stigma of dementia means some community members don’t know how to respond to someone living with dementia and those living with dementia then miss important human connection and support service”.
“We need to act now to prepare our community to think about how everyone can help to make a difference,” Dr Barrett says.
Edie Mayhew and Anne Tudor are hoping the Bigger Hearts film will help by breaking down the stigma of dementia, recognising the expertise and experiences of people living with dementia and by showing Story Catchers reflecting on how they enjoyed conversations with people with dementia.
The film will be offered as an educational resource for families, communities and services to show the importance of listening to people living with dementia.
“We think this film is unique in our approach to showing Australians how to reach out and talk to someone with dementia,” they say.