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Surf’s up – Tony Abbott and Mike Baird make a splash at Wipeout Dementia surf contest

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbot and Former New South Wales Premier Mark Baird went head to head on the waves last weekend for the Wipeout Dementia surfing contest at Queenscliff Beach.

Tony Abbott hits the surf (source: centre for healthy brain ageing)
Tony Abbott hits the surf (source: centre for healthy brain ageing)

The event, run by the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) at the University of New South Wales, raised $96,000 for the Dementia Momentum initiative, $21,000 more than it's original goal.

“I am extremely encouraged by the enhanced awareness and attention Wipeout Dementia is generating throughout the corporate community,” says Richard Grellman, Spokesman for Dementia Momentum and Ambassador for Wipeout Dementia. “There is a critical need for partnerships between research and business in order for us to tackle the extraordinary challenge posed by dementia.” 

The contest saw some of Sydney’s top executives compete in the surf alongside Wipeout Dementia Ambassador and 1978 World Surfing Champion Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew, to increase awareness about the reducing the risks of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

CHeBA Co-Director Professor Perminder Sachdev says that a new case of dementia is diagnosed in the world every three seconds.

“In Australia there are currently 244 people each day that are joining the population with dementia, which is set to increase to 650 new cases per day by 2025,” Professor Sachdev says. 

“Recent estimates suggest that the cost of dementia globally is US$818 billion and that in Australia alone the estimate cost in 2017 is $14 billion.”

The Wipeout Dementia event was held in honour of Richard Grellman’s wife, Suellen, who currently requires full time high level care for advanced young onset dementia at age 66.

Mr Grellman says the staggering predictions suggest that the dementia epidemic poses a massive health and socioeconomic challenge to Australia.

“Current estimates predict the aged care workforce in Australia will need to triple by 2050 and 500 new nursing home beds for dementia-related care will be needed per month for the next 40 years, Mr Grellman says. “Without clear and scalable care pathways and infrastructure, we are ill-equipped to cope with the projected influx of patients.

“Research funding for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias remains disproportionately underfunded when its prevalence, disability burden and economic costs are considered.”

CHeBA Co-Director Henry Brodaty says that beyond the alarming statistics and need for research, there is a dire need for family support and translation of policy into practice.

“Reducing the social impact of this disease has reached a critical point,” Mr Brodaty says.   

“There is an undeniable need for research to not only understand the causes of the various types of dementia, but also to find effective interventions to cure and preferably prevent or delay its onset.” 

Abbott and Baird at the Wipeout Dementia surf contest (source: centre for healthy brain ageing)

Tony Abbott and Mike Baird were competing in the Wipeout Dementia surfing contest for a second time, after both hit the waves in 2015, but were this year beat out for the Wipeout winning title by the Cunninham's Cruisers team.

Wipeout Dementia Ambassador and 1978 World Surfing Champion Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew, congratulated all participants for their enthusiasm and involvement. 

“The big winner was the raising of in excess of 95k. The knowledge that this will be injected into the research coffers of Professor Henry Brodaty and Professor Perminder Sachdev and their team is very reassuring. It was definitely sobering to hear the stats on the coming tsunami for this country, so to be involved in some way with a genuine Australia hero warms the heart,” said Rabbit. 

To learn more about Wipeout Dementia surf contest and help raise funds for dementia research visit the CHeBA website.

(source: centre for healthy brain ageing)

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