Tackling dementia with youth power

Azlan Othman

Demensia Brunei (dB) recently participated in the Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) 2020 Youth Engagement Programme (YEP) symposium – the first for the international virtual conference.

dB’s Dementia Care Skills Lead Trainer and Dementia Friends Brunei Champion Maizatul Omar said the Sultanate focusses on inspiring the youth to take ownership of their health and well-being as well as to lead a meaningful life and volunteer time to support the community of older persons, those with dementia, disability and the vulnerable.

She added that efforts include promoting dementia by conducting talks, seminars and workshops in relation to dementia awareness targetted towards the young people, youth organisations and more.

In less than 18 months, dB has has held awareness talks to over 5,000 in the public and private sectors, not including the numbers over national TV, radio talk shows and social media channels.

Dementia Care Skills workshops are conducted monthly, and to date have trained over 400 careers, healthcare workers, allied health professionals, and importantly, the youth. In 2019, a first batch of 15 drivers of DART, a ride-sharing service that operates much like Uber and Grab in Asia, offered an option for mobility to the elderly with dementia along with their carers.

dB Honorary Advisor Datin Jacqueline Wong takes part in the virtual Youth Engagement Programme

In addition, dB is collaborating with three ministries, aligning with concerted efforts and aspiring towards the country becoming a model active ageing, dementia-friendly and inclusive nation by Brunei Vision 2035. In April, dB received certification as an exclusive member of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). Brunei Darussalam is also set to host the Alzheimer’s Disease International Asia Pacific Regional Meeting and Conference in 2023.

The initiatives of empowering youth and their voices to strengthen the call-to-action for more support for the course of dementia via collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Health and Universiti Brunei Darussalam were also highlighted.

The YEP’s aims and objectives are to engage youth groups to learn more about dementia, encourage youth to be active in volunteerism; provide support to young careers, towards building human capital, capacity, sustainability and a legacy as well as work towards the YEP becoming a permanent feature in ADI conferences.

The first YEP held in conjunction with the Asia Pacific Regional Meeting and Conference in Malaysia, August 2019 involved 17 youth presenters from the Asia-Pacific region – from Japan to Indonesia.

Meanwhile, the Honorary Advisor of dB Datin Jacqueline Wong said the YEP provided a platform for young people’s voices to be heard, to shed light on the issues and challenges of young carers as well as how some youth are aiding others while they learn and grow as individuals.

At the same time, their efforts in sharing and aiding their peers are gaining the support of others to do the same, in further engaging more young people – beyond borders.

She noted that caring for a person with dementia is not an easy feat. “What more for young carers, whom I came to know in the course of my work, who are caring for loved ones who are unwell include those with dementia.

“This group of young people are missing out in school and ‘growing up’. For those starting out with their own lives and are juggling work and social lives, are faced with the task of having to take care of a family member with dementia (and siblings, too).

“Moving forward, with the opportunity of an international audience and virtual participation reaching farther and wider, I continue to encourage Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia-related associations to look into youth support and volunteerism in their communities, and countries.

“Youth and young people participation and inclusivity are critical. After all, we will all grow old and age one day.

“The efforts and community initiatives from our young people in the Asia-Pacific inspired and has given me much to look forward to, post-COVID-19 and beyond,” she said, adding that for now there is no cure to prevent dementia or a one-size solution that fits all, some may be imperfect, for now it will do the greater good for the greatest number of people with dementia.

“After all, our youth are our future leaders working together with us to rethink, rebuild an improved on a more equitable, sustainable and inclusive future,” she said.

Datin Jacqueline also expressed special thanks to speakers and observers in Brunei Darussalam, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom for their participation and contribution at the Youth Engagement Programme for the first ever virtual session (pre-recorded) for the 34th ADI International Conference: Hope in The Age of Dementia.