A public meeting has been held in Rotorua to discuss the care and treatment of people suffering from dementia and aged-related issues - believed to be the first meeting of its kind in New Zealand.

About 100 people attended the meeting at the Rotorua Lakes Council yesterday to discuss what can be done for people, and the families of people, suffering from dementia, Alzheimer's, and other age-related issues, which are becoming more of a concern due to an ageing population.

The discussion was led by the council's senior policy adviser Rosemary Viskovic, who was joined by the Ministry of Social Development's Office for Seniors acting director Blair McCarthy, Alzheimers New Zealand executive director Catherine Hall, Bupa dementia care adviser Beth McDougall and Westpac Bank's Lorraine Hunter.

Elaine Fox of Alzheimers Rotorua and Age Concern Rotorua's Shirley Hatch shared personal accounts of living with dementia.


Those there discussed what changes were needed for Rotorua to become more dementia and age inclusive.

Grey Power president Russell Hallam said it was a very worthwhile discussion.

"Obviously, dementia is only one part of the problem for people in their third age," he said. "We are definitely on the right track and we as Grey Power will support making Rotorua age friendly for elderly, but it would also help those people who are younger and who will benefit from anything we do now as we look to the future."

District councillor Mark Gould, who is part of the council's Positive Ageing committee, said he was a bit disappointed there had been little input from Maori, but he would be bringing that issue up at future meetings.

"Many people would not know who in their neighbourhoods are suffering from dementia or other age-related problems. They often feel left out and alone, so anything we can do to help this we should be doing."

Mrs Viskovic said the meeting was the start of a larger discussion and the council could lead by example by offering people better services, as could local businesses.

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Ms Hunter said Westpac had already put in place training to help deal with an ageing population. She said staff were being taught how to identify those who had age-related problems and how to deal with them in a safe and friendly way.