Geoffrey Sellars knows the importance of social contact when caring for someone with dementia.
- A dementia friendly cafe is proving so successful in Tasmania’s north-west it’s being replicated in a neighbouring town
- Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australians
- It’s estimated more than 447,000 Australians live with dementia
He is caring for his wife Jan and has the support of family, but is also grateful for the chance to get out and about.
A cafe in Ulverstone in Tasmania’s north-west is providing a venue for people like the Sellars.
Mr Sellars said it was “wonderful” for the couple to be “welcomed with open arms” at Connect Cafe.
“Dementia is hard on a family. Luckily we have support not only through this cafe but also with close family, but it is hard,” he says.
“A place like this is just so friendly and it’s really important. I can see how people could get isolated quite easily from dementia if there wasn’t this support around.”
Wendy Nash and Eddie Roberts enjoy volunteering at the Connect Cafe, helping dementia patients and carers. (ABC News: Henry Zwartz)
Connect Cafe is a dementia-friendly space, where sufferers and their carers interact with a group of keen volunteers over hot tea and cakes.
The cafe, with the assistance of the local council, has been open since mid-2018, and sees a steady number of visitors.
Vince Dudink is volunteering after losing his wife of 52 years, Mary, to dementia. (ABC News: Henry Zwartz)
Organisers estimate a few dozen people have visited this week.
For volunteer Wendy Nash, it is a way to give back to her community.
“I just love coming here … I think it’s like all the rest of us that volunteer here, we give and they give to us,” she said.
“We come in each week and you’ll see those same faces and we’ll get a hug and they get a hug.”
Ms Nash knows firsthand the impact of the disease after her own mother grappled with it in her final years.
“It’s good to be able to support people, so they aren’t isolated by this terrible disease,” she said.
For Vince Dudink, volunteering is also deeply personal. The 83-year-old lost his wife of 52 years, Mary, to dementia.
“It just gives me something to do, I want to help, I have the time and I saw how hard it was firsthand when my wife went through it,” he said.
Customers with dementia and their carers meet at the cafe once a week. (ABC News: Henry Zwartz)
The Ulverstone cafe, which pops up at Pier One in Ulverstone’s waterfront district each Tuesday, has been so successful in helping those with the disease and their carers, it is now being rolled out in neighbouring Devonport.
Today, the Munnew Day Centre is unveiling its own pop-up cafe, which will be open every second Wednesday.
The new centre’s team leader Tammy Bromfield said despite being widespread, dementia was a sometimes hidden issue.
“Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia and it is currently estimated that 250 people a day are joining the population with dementia,” she said.
“As communities we need to be more dementia aware and friendly.
“This is how we can enable people living with dementia to continue living at home and managing … and this cafe will be a friendly, safe and welcoming environment where you can enjoy a cuppa and a chat.”