Studies completed in the Kimberley, New South Wales and the Northern Territory have identified that Aboriginal people aged 45 and over experience higher rates of dementia (Smith, Flicker et al 2008, Radford et al 2014, Li, SQ et al 2014) than the general Australian population aged 65 and older.
The remote nature of many Aboriginal communities means there are logistical and fiscal complexities underpinning the delivery of targeted public health programs. This complexity can lead to a greater onus on individuals, families and existing services to not only identify that there may be an issue with an older person’s cognition but also to harness support from existing services to develop a person-centred response.
In addition to a clinic, Home and Community Care type services, a store, a school and a council office, many communities have established an art centre. Art centres are acknowledged as central to the social, cultural and economic wellbeing of many artists and communities, providing opportunities for connecting people, uniting community and intergenerational learning (Acker and Woodhead 2015). Artists aged over 55 years, who are considered to be senior, not only in age but often for their cultural authority to paint the stories associated with their country and lore, are estimated to comprise around 30% of the artist population (Acker and Woodhead 2015). While the number of artists with probable dementia or other related cognitive problems is unknown the high rates found in the studies mentioned above suggests this is a high probability.
There appears to be little attention given to the skills and knowledge required to support people with dementia as art centre participants, despite the recognition that supporting older people is part of the job (Sprague, 2015).
This literature review aims to identify the gaps in our knowledge in this space and to determine opportunities for future exploration.