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UC forges partnership with dementia care project The Neighbourhood Canberra

Michael Black

10 November 2021: The University of Canberra will bring its leading expertise in aged care and dementia research to an exciting new project by The Neighbourhood Canberra (TNC) — the proponents behind Canberra’s first village for people living with dementia.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed by the two organisations, which will see University experts give input on every stage of the development, from design and implementation to service delivery, once the village is up and running.

The central vision is to establish a village in Canberra tailored to the specific needs of people living with the complex condition, and who need around-the-clock, expert care.

It will also offer services and amenities to non-residents, allowing for strong integration between villagers and the broader community.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Paddy Nixon said the partnership would be a fantastic opportunity to further the institution’s valuable work in the Canberra community.

“We have passionate experts across many faculties who are constantly working on improving the livelihoods of those living with dementia in Canberra,” Professor Nixon said.

“It will be valuable for TNC to have our researchers so extensively engaged with the project, so they can develop industry-proven innovations that are backed up by the latest research.

“The partnership will give our students even more opportunities for unique Work Integrated Learning opportunities right here in the Canberra community.”

TNC President Luisa Capezio said the University’s input would be key to making sure the care provided in the village is grounded in best practice.

“We have a lot of ideas, but at this stage, they’re just ideas. With the University’s help, we’ll be able to really push a lot of them forward to the implementation stage,” Ms Capezio said.

“Once everything is up and running, there’s also a very exciting prospect for the partnership to flourish with ongoing employment and training.”

The Neighbourhood will include 15 cottages, each with six residents, alongside a central atrium with several community facilities like a coffee shop, library, and hairdresser.

Plans include a childcare centre, which will infuse the community with the benefits of intergenerational friendship and care.

The concept isn’t an Australian first, with similar facilities already in practice at Korongee Dementia Village in Hobart as well as overseas.

But it will be a first for the Australian mainland and will benefit from the University’s research into other such dementia-friendly facilities.

Associate Lecturer in Nutrition Dr Nathan D’Cunha is part of the University’s Ageing Research Group as well as a board member of TNC. He said there was a lot of passion on both sides of the partnership for the project and its goals.

“It’s important we bring not just our expertise but also our enthusiasm. We want the residents to feel like they are living with friends and not so much staff,” he said.

“The safety of residents is also front of mind — we’re researching an adaptive boundary for the village where friends, family, and the wider community are welcome, while residents are secure inside too.”

Distinguished Professor Diane Gibson, also a member of the Ageing Research Group, said it was important to have the University’s expert guidance in such a development.

“The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety made strong recommendations around small-scale accommodation for older people, so we want to make sure this development keeps ahead of those recommendations,” she said.

“Dementia is incurable, but we’ll put into practice all our research into the interventions that improve cognitive function and reduce the rate of decline, so people can live longer and with a better quality of life.”

For more information on The Neighbourhood Canberra and updates on the project, visit the website.