Property industry unites to eliminiate dementia

With people aged 65 and over set to comprise over 20% of the population within the next decade, and dementia now the single greatest cause of disability in this demographic, senior executives across Sydney’s property industry have joined forces to raise over $130,000 in an effort to eliminate dementia with a surfing contest held on today at Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach.

The surfing event, which raises research funds for The Dementia Momentum initiative at the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), UNSW Sydney, also aims to highlight the global social and economic impact of dementia.

“Dementia is now estimated to cost Australia more than $15 billion annually,” says Wipeout Dementia Ambassador and Ssokesman for The Dementia Momentum, Richard Grellman AM.

“By 2056, the total cost of dementia is predicted to increase to more than $36.8 billion in today’s dollars,” he said. “Clearly we need a colossal increase in funding to support key research to alter the course of dementia forecasts.”

With the expansion of aged care development across the globe to accommodate our ageing population, there is also an ever-increasing demand for specialist dementia facilities and care.

“Currently more than 52% of permanent residents in Australian aged care facilities have dementia,” says CHeBA’s Co-Director Professor Henry Brodaty AO.

“The projections clearly indicate this is only going to increase,” he said.

Surfers in the Wipeout Dementia event come from many organisations across the property industry including Colliers International, Aoyuan International, Lendlease, The GPT Group, Ray White Commercial, State Property, m3property, Sense Projects, AMP Australia and Shape Australia. Four teams of surfers have been brought to the Wipeout Dementia cause by Avenor Director Peter Clemesha, Director of Bates Smart Philip Vivian, Craig Rodgers of Charter Hall and Steve Watson, Managing Director of Steve Watson & Partners.

A number of the surfers participating in the event have family members with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, known only too well by Richard Grellman AM whose wife Suellen has advanced young onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Director of AWM Commercial Furniture & Joinery and second time surfer in Wipeout Dementia, Anthony Scotts, has witnessed first-hand the devastating impact that dementia has on the individual and extended family – with both his father being diagnosed some 20 years ago and, more recently, another family member aged just 62. One of 8 children, Mr Scotts and his siblings are hopeful for better support of people with young onset Alzheimer’s disease.

“My sibling became very socially withdrawn and struggled with short-term memory,” said Mr Scotts.

“The rest of our family have been discouraged by the level of support available for young onset Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

“It’s certainly the reason I got on board Wipeout Dementia and an important cause I want to support,” said Mr Scotts.

In 2017, Director and Founder of AN+A, Patrick Nicholas, lost his father – Graeme Nicholas – to vascular dementia.

“My dad, Graeme, loved Bondi Beach and the surf and led a very active life. When he was first diagnosed with vascular dementia we were lucky in that we managed to get him moved from the Central Coast to Surry Hills near the office and had some great contact as a family over his last few years. As hard as it was to experience his changing condition to an eventual complete decline, we were extremely impressed with the care and medical attention dad received,” said Mr Nicholas.

“In saying that, this event and fundraiser is all about research and awareness and I wonder what we would have done differently 10 years ago with our father knowing what I’ve now learned,” he said.

Another first-time participant, Rodney Jamieson, of FDC Construction & Fitout bore witness to his loving Nan experiencing ‘sundowners’ dementia in the late stages of her life.

“Two years after my Grandfather had passed my Nan started having visions of him daily at 5pm with another woman,” says Mr Jamieson.

“After 67 years of a beautiful marriage together her ‘sundowning’ was extraordinarily traumatic for her and for all of us,” he said. “It broke my heart to watch my Nan decline with dementia and for such a cruel end to her life.”

Fellow first-time participant, Craig Shelsher, Director at Custance Associates shares a similar story of his father’s brother, whose cognitive decline has advanced rapidly following his diagnosis three years ago aged just 71.

“My father and his brother forged a very successful construction business together,” he said.

“My Uncle is now at a point where he does not recognise family members,” says Mr Shelsher.

Personal stories such as these inspire CHeBA’s academics to continue to expand their research across the full spectrum of the disease beyond drug treatments, to include early diagnosis and prevention strategies in mid-life to reduce modifiable risk factors associated with dementia.

Professor Brodaty, who leads Maintain Your Brain; the world’s largest internet-based intervention study at CHeBA, says there is a critical need to target early to mid-life to reduce risk of dementia.

“We are certainly advocating the potential of these interventions to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias,” he said.

Today’s Wipeout Dementia event is the eighth run by CHeBA and seeks to promote awareness about the modifiable risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias while driving research funds to harness global research to prevent dementia.

1978 World Surfing Champion, Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew AM will compete in the event in his Ambassador role for the cause.

Richard Grellman confirmed that the goal is to raise $120,000 to advance the large-scale, “big data” research being conducted at CHeBA. 

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