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Dementia and the specific needs of Greek Australians

By 2057 there will be an estimated 1 million Australians living with dementia. In that same year there will be 8.8 million people over the age of 65 years.

In 2017, 15% of Australians (3.8 million) were aged over 65 years. By 2057 this group will increase to 22% of the population (ie 8.8 million people) and by 2097 the proportion will be 12.8 million people or 1 in 4 of the population.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare forecasts the number of people living with dementia will reach 1 million by 2057 compared to 376,000 in 2017. Dementia Australia forecasts a higher number than that of the AIHW.

Alarmingly, a 2017 study by Professor Anstey, a researcher at Neuroscience Research Australia, found that more than half of people living with dementia in Australia are not detected.
The large predicted increase in dementia numbers means that there will be an increased demand and need for culture and language appropriate services available for people with dementia and for their carers.

Greece born people in Australia have lower levels of educational attainment and poorer English skills compared to the general population and compared to newer migrant arrivals. The 2016 census showed that 37% of Greece born people are aged over 75 years and 29% are aged between 65-74 years. The vast majority (over 90%) identify and are affiliated with the Orthodox Christian faith. 33% speak English “not well or not at all”. 65% have only a school education and 10% have no education at all (compared to 39% and 1% respectively for the general Victorian population). Only 6% have a bachelor degree or above (24% for the general population).

Occupational patterns show higher rates of machine operators, drivers, and labourers compared to the general population. Total income for the Greece born group is also comparatively lower than the general population.

The above census data highlights the need for better and more accessible information for older Greek Australians and for culturally and linguistically appropriate treatment options and services. 24% of Greece born people stated that they are in need of assistance from others compared to 5% in the general population stating that they have this need. The predicted increased rates of dementia will have an impact on the aging Greece born population and strategies need to be put in place to cope with the inevitable increase in numbers.

Melbourne’s population boasts 50% of all Greece born people in Australia. Sydney has 29%, Adelaide 8% and Brisbane and Perth each have 2.4%. Most of the ethno and language specific services will therefore be required in Melbourne.

Melbourne based organizations such as Fronditha Care, Pronoia, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, in addition to a plethora of private organizations, have attempted to service this growing sector of need in the aging population. The Hellenic Medical Society of Australia has also provided public education and lobbied for improved services. Much more needs to be done however in order to manage this tsunami of need in our aging Greek Australian population.

On Sunday 22 september 2019 at 11am a free public education forum on dementia will be presented at oakleigh grammar school immediately after the sunday liturgy. this event will be conducted in greek and is a joint initiative of the hellenic medical society of australia, fronditha care and oakleigh grammar school. Light refreshments will be provided. medical experts and service providers will present at the forum which will be titled “The puzzle of dementia” – “Ο κρικος της Άνοιας» everone is welcome.

(By Dr Arthur Kokkinias, Hellenic Medical Society of Australia)

This article was uploaded by Greek Media Group but written by others. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of TA NEA NEWSPAPER AND 3XY RADIO.