Adventures with Dementia – accessing safe travel options
"Adventures with dementia": How dementia inclusive is Bundaberg as a tourist destination? Is assessing the viability of the city of Bundaberg to be a tourist attraction for people with dementia. The study is looking at the current status and opportunities that exist at the city’s airport and railway station and for local taxi and coach travel operators.
The CQUniversity research team is working with Jill Franz from the School of Design at QUT and Nicole Shepherd from the School of Medicine at University of Queensland and liaising with Bundaberg Regional Council, Bundaberg Airport, Bundaberg Railway Station, Bundaberg Cab Company, Bundaberg Coaches and the Gracie Dixon Centre.
The research findings should benefit people with dementia and their care partners, by enabling more positive travel experiences. It will also benefit transport services and their staff by minimising delays and difficulties with passengers and should benefit the Bundaberg region by promoting it as a dementia inclusive destination.
Dr Maria O’Reilly, Professor Carolyn Unsworth and Claudia Bielenberg
Australia has witnessed a paradigm shift in how we regard the neurological condition of dementia. We now know that people with dementia can and do continue to live engaged lives long after receiving their diagnosis. However, despite this realisation, communities have been slow to address accessibility issues for this population, making travel conditions far from ideal.
A CQUniversity research team have been working with a Queensland regional community to initiate a shift in understanding around accessibility issues and to determine strategies to improve travel for people with dementia. The project lead by Dr Maria O’Reilly is looking at how dementia friendly travel is in the city of Bundaberg. This study hopes to provide an insight into the accessibility of similar cities in Australia.
"While Australian communities have long recognised the need to ensure the accessibility for people with physical impairments, they’ve been slower to ensure accessibility and inclusiveness for people with ‘invisible disability’ like dementia," explains Dr O’Reilly.
"We also know that more older people are travelling, including people living with dementia, and I believe that Bundaberg has great potential to be established as a ‘dementia friendly’ tourist destination."
The research project titled “Adventures with dementia”: How dementia inclusive is Bundaberg as a tourist destination? is determining the dementia friendly status of Bundaberg transport hubs and services and identifying the facilitators and barriers to safe, comfortable travel to, from and within Bundaberg for people with dementia.
As part of the project, researchers are identifying attitudes, training and preparedness of Bundaberg transport staff to provide inclusive services to people with dementia and are also identifying unmet needs concerning travel for this population.
As part of this project, researchers have been working with Bundaberg airport and railway station personnel, as well as taxi and coach travel operators. Transport staff have taken part in an anonymous survey, while an environmental audit of the airport and railway stations have also been conducted, and a focus group of local people living with dementia and their care partners is planned.
"This is an extension of a project that was conducted in Brisbane which resulted in Brisbane airport being endorsed as Australia’s first ‘dementia-friendly’ airport," says Dr O’Reilly. "We believe the Bundaberg study will also have positive outcomes for people with dementia."
"While we are still sifting through the local results, the site audits indicate that achieving dementia friendly status of local transport hubs should be manageable."
"Our findings should benefit people with dementia and their care partners, by enabling more positive travel experiences. It will also benefit transport
services and their staff by minimising delays and difficulties with passengers."
"Finally, it should benefit the Bundaberg region by promoting it as a dementia-inclusive destination, thus attracting more travellers with dementia."
Dr O’Reilly hopes in the long term this project will form the beginning of a network of dementia friendly travel destinations, enabling the ongoing engagement and inclusion of people with dementia in our country.