2 June 2017
Baptistcare Lifestyle Coordinator Shizuka Yokoi recently presented at Alzheimer’s Disease International’s 32nd International Conference in Kyoto, Japan.
Representing Australia, Ms Yokoi introduced the Win-Win Culture Exchange, Baptistcare Gracewood Residential Care’s innovative program which facilitates interaction between people living with dementia and Japanese youth volunteers in Perth. The highly successful program brings together people from different cultural backgrounds and ages, proving the importance of non-verbal communication for people living with dementia.
Residents living with dementia and volunteers spend time doing activities the resident is known to enjoy, such as listening to music, singing, arts and crafts, exercising and playing games. Improved mood and increased moments of engagement were evident among residents when they interacted with the volunteers.
“Instead of focusing on the loss of cognition and abilities in people living with dementia, I saw their abilities and recognised a great opportunity for volunteer youth to get involved, so I developed this program to connect Australian seniors and Japanese youth,” Ms Yokoi explained.
“When I first arrived in Australia, my spoken English skills were very limited. However, I found could communicate with residents with advanced dementia without the use of higher language skills. I could see I was making these people happy even though I was unable to fully converse with them,” she said.
The program is part of Baptistcare’s Dementia Enrichment Project, an initiative which aims to enable residents living with dementia to live their best life possible at its 14 residential care facilities in Perth and regional WA.
Ms Yokoi met with a number of leading dementia researchers and advocates during the conference including Kate Swaffer, CEO of Dementia Alliance International and 2017 South Australian of the Year, who is living beyond younger onset dementia. Ms Yokoi worked in a voluntary capacity as an interpreter for Ms Swaffer during the conference.
The annual four day symposium, attended by approximately 4,000 people from around the world, including 200 people living with dementia, showcases the latest scientific findings in dementia research, community engagement innovations and the experiences of individuals living with dementia.