DEMENTIA ADVOCACY - INITIATIVES
The Hello Initiative
Following my diagnosis of Younger Onset Alzheimer’s disease in July 2019, I soon realised that if I was going to experience a quality of life that would sustain me as this disease progressed, I needed to make significant changes to my lifestyle. Besides modifying my diet and incorporating physical exercise and brain activities into my daily routine, I was convinced that I also needed to look at ways of becoming socially engaged and becoming part of the local community. I say this, because I experienced a loss in confidence following my diagnosis, especially in my ability to socialise with people.
In June 2021, I was invited to join the ‘Come Together’ initiative, which was Tony Stewart’s novel idea of inviting people to say “Hello” to each other as they cross paths along a popular coastal walkway that connects South Curl Curl and Freshwater beaches in my area. This was exactly what I needed. Not only has it encouraged me to get out into the community and make many new friends but it has also opened by eyes, mind and heart to all the wonderful things that are happening around me. This I believe is aptly expressed in Tony’s slogan:
You will never know if you don’t say hello
Since becoming part of this initiative, I have learnt that the simple but friendly gesture of saying ‘Hello’ to another person is in itself a very powerful statement. Not only are you reaching out and inviting a person to start a conversation, but you are also acknowledging their presence in a caring way. You don’t have to stop and have a chat. You don’t have to become friends. Just saying ‘hello’ to anyone who crosses your path, can create a habit that is contagious. When you make another person feel positive about themself, you are also encouraging them to behave in the same way.
By the end of 2021, I became so impressed with the impact that this initiative was having, I decided that I would start to raise community awareness about Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by branding my own personal logo onto the hello t-shirts. Although in its initial stages, as more and more people are starting to wear my special t-shirt, I also feel that I am helping to build a community, where everyone is valued and treated equally. My success in this journey would not have been possible without the tireless support and friendship of my care support worker, Daniela.
The Rockpool Tour Initiative
During our last COVID lockdown in late 2021, a few mates and I were chatting about ‘bucket lists’ and Mick Harrold commented on the history behind the Northern beaches rockpools and how good it would be if you could swim one lap in these of these rockpools. We all loved the idea, and the Ocean Rockpool committee was formed. Besides celebrating where we live and having some fun, our main aim was to not only support me, as I had been recently diagnosed with Younger Onset Alzheimer’s disease, but more importantly we wanted to highlight the issue of mental health in our community and raise funds for locally disadvantaged people.
“We wanted to have some fun for own health and wellbeing, and while doing so, support our mate Bill to raise awareness to a range of mental health issues. In doing so we wanted to help remove the stigma sometimes associated with mental health disorders and raise funds for affected local disadvantaged people in need of money and support,” says Mick.
Starting at my place at 7 am for breakfast on 15 January 2022, a group of 21 mates and our bus driver, Peter Farrell, travelled to Palm Beach to begin the epic journey of swimming one lap in each of the 14 rockpools that were built during the Great Depression during the 1930’s. We divided everyone into four teams (red, blue, yellow and green) and competed in a range of events including freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke, dog paddle, dolphin diving and pool walking. After travelling 45 km, we finished our final swim at Fairy Bower and raised over $10,000 for local charities (Lifeline and Vinnies) and Dementia Alliance International (DAI). A big thank-you to our sponsors Seventh Day Brewery, Sale Pepe Restaurant and Budgy Smuggler who through their support made this event such a wonderful experience.
Throughout the day, we met countless members of the community who were in awe of what we were attempting to achieve. They openly congratulated us on our novel idea of raising community awareness about mental health issues, while helping to remove the stigma that is attached to this ever-increasing problem. Some even asked if they could join us next year. The success of our first Rockpool Tour was also evidenced by the laughter and comradery on the bus and at each of the rock pools.
Needless, to say plans are now underway to make next year’s Ocean Rockpool Tour even bigger.