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Skywalk at Brisbane Airport's domestic terminal. Photo: Brisbane Airport Corporation.

Gate now open for dementia-friendly travel

Australia has its first dementia-friendly airport thanks to a collaboration between staff, researchers and dementia advocates.

Alzheimer’s Australia gave its tick of approval to Brisbane Airport at today’s launch of a new guide to its terminals for travellers with dementia.

Ensuring a Smooth Journey: A Guide to Brisbane Airport for People Living with Dementia and their Travel Companions is a step-by-step guide that aims to make the experience of navigating through Brisbane Airport’s domestic and international terminals as simple, stress free and enjoyable as possible.

Maree McCabe, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Australia, said it is essential that Australia sees more environments that help people living with dementia continue to be engaged with the community and the activities that are important to them.

The airport guide was prepared by the QUT-based Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration: Carers and Consumers (DCRC-CC) in partnership with dementia advocates and Brisbane Airport Corporation.

Professor Elizabeth Beattie, director of the DCRC-CC, said air travel can be incredibly stressful for anyone but may be even more so for people with dementia and their carers.

“A previous DCRC-CC study found the most challenging part of air travel for people with dementia was managing at the airport,” Beattie said. “Some of the best advice comes from people who have dementia and those who travel with them. They suggest, for example, that you find an airline and stick to them, keep hand luggage to a minimum, always be early and book flights at the quieter times.”

The guide identifies the international dementia-friendly symbols and takes users through the different airport zones, outlining what to expect in the bag screening area, duty free regulations, customs, quarantine, transfers and immigration.

The project team used the Dementia Friendly Communities Environmental Assessment Tool to determine whether Brisbane Airport’s terminals were dementia friendly and found the clear and concise signage from the carpark through the boarding gate helped the airport score well.

Julieanne Alroe, Brisbane Airport Corporation chief executive and managing director, said the related resources kit would be integrated into customer service training for airline staff and other airport workers, including retailers, security, cleaners and volunteers.

Beattie said the team now hopes the guide and staff training material take off and are adapted for use in other airports in Australia and worldwide.

McCabe said no matter the size of the organisation, dementia-friendly principles could be achieved.

“Dementia-friendly may include changes to design, layout, signage and way finding; or education of staff to be able to recognise and better assist a person living with dementia,” she said. “We expect this is just the beginning and look forward to working with many more organisations, large and small, to think about how they can become more dementia-friendly.”

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