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Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation


Working towards a world without dementia

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing; it is caused by diseases of the brain. Without a major research breakthrough for treatments or interventions that can prevent, delay or reverse dementia, there will be almost one million people living with dementia by 2050. The Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation (AADRF) is supporting research to fight this devastating condition and providing hope for the many Australians with dementia and their families and carers.

What we do
The AADRF invests in Australia’s best and brightest new and early career dementia researchers. These are researchers who are committed to learning more about the causes of dementia and developing evidence-based prevention, diagnostic and treatment strategies. In addition, the AADRF, through the Hazel Hawke Alzheimer’s Research and Care Fund, supports research aimed at improving the quality of dementia care across Australia. Our purpose is to:

  • support innovative Australian research that offers the best hope of defeating dementia
  • work with people with dementia to ensure that research reflects their concerns and priorities
  • disseminate information about the progress of dementia research

All funding for the AADRF is donated by members of the public and by private and philanthropic organisations.

Why we do it
Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia. Current figures show that more than 342,800 Australians are living with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. This number is expected to increase to 400,000 in less than ten years without a medical breakthrough that can only be found through high-quality research. There are also an estimated 1.2 million Australians who are involved in the care of someone with the condition.

We believe science holds the key to defeating dementia, so the research we fund is focused on the causes, care, prevention of and potential treatments for dementia.

Our achievements
Our current knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia is the result of extensive research that has been undertaken over the last 40 to 50 years, with many Australian researchers leading the way. Here is a snapshot of some of our current research projects that have developed innovative ways of using technology to support the care of people with dementia.


brennan horley
Dr Chris Brennan-Horley working with the ‘Our Place’ website, which launched in December 2015.

Dr Chris Brennan-Horley, DECRA Fellow at the Australian Centre for Cultural Environment Research, University of Wollongong. Dr Brennan-Horley was awarded an Alzheimer’s Australia NSW Project Grant in 2014.

Dr Brennan-Horley has used computer-based mapping technologies to develop an interactive website that allows users to map ‘dementia friendly places’ in their local area. ‘Our Place’ is designed to assist people with dementia and their supporters to share local knowledge about places in their neighbourhood that are enabling for people with dementia. It also allows users to share ideas about places that could be improved. The initiative, currently being trialled in Kiama and Darwin, can be accessed at:

“We all know that local knowledge is important. We rely on locals to tell us about the best features of a place: where we can get a good coffee, where we can find a car park on a busy Saturday morning, for example. So why not ‘dementia-friendly’ places?” Dr Chris Brennan-Horley


The ‘Our Place’ map interface (Kiama).
The ‘Our Place’ map interface (Kiama).


dr janet belby
Dr Janet Beilby is pictured (centre) with Professor Shelley Brundage from George Washington University Virtual Learning Laboratory (left) and the real-life Jim (right) – the person who provided all the audio and video clips that the design team used for the actual avatar “Jim”.

Dr Janet Beilby, Senior Lecturer at the School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, Curtin University. Dr Beilby was awarded an AADRF-Victoria Project Grant in 2014.

Communication difficulties are some of the most significant challenges experienced by health professionals and family members when interacting with and caring for people with dementia. Dr Beilby has developed a virtual learning environment for practising interpersonal communication skills. Health professionals and carers engage with a virtual resident with dementia (an avatar named Jim) in a simulated yet realistic communication exchange. The technology provides a safe environment in which to practice communication techniques to manage the frustration and agitation that a person with dementia may experience.

“In 2015, our research using the digital avatar in his virtual environment benefitted a wide range of care workers, volunteers and family members of people living with dementia. A diverse range of participants enjoyed interacting with our avatar “Jim” and his wife “Moira” and valued the opportunity to receive personalised feedback regarding how to improve their communication and interaction skills with a person who has dementia. The research team is very excited about the future potential of such virtual experiences and learning.” Dr Janet Beilby


How you can help
The researchers working towards finding a breakthrough for treatments or interventions that can prevent, delay or reverse dementia need our support. Once you have provided for loved-ones, leaving a gift in your Will to AADRF is a wonderful way to enable us to continue our work. In addition we are always grateful to accept donations, large or small as well as funds raised from community fundraising events. If you would like to support funding for dementia research in Australia, please visit the website and click the “Donate to Research” icon.

AADRF-logoFor more information you may wish to email or phone (02) 6278 8900.

About the author

Alana Lowes

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