Up and Away: Improving the accessibility of airports for travellers with dementia Prof Jill Franz, Queensland University of Technology

In the last fifteen to twenty years statistics show a substantial increase in the numbers of Australian residents aged over 65 traveling within Australia as well as overseas. While a diagnosis of dementia should not exclude people from enjoying air travel, research has shown that navigating the airport is a significant challenge for travelers with dementia and their companions (O’Reilly & Shepherd, 2016). For people with dementia there is a tendency to experience difficulties with way-finding and become confused in unfamiliar and visually cluttered environments. Further, as dementia is a condition largely of old age, it is likely that they will also be coping with comorbidities impacting hearing, vision and mobility. While the ability to cope with these comorbidities may be improved by changes in legislation that has aimed to make public spaces more accessible to those with mobility limitations and visual and hearing impairments, little attention has been paid to the unique environmental needs of people with cognitive or processing impairments, such as dementia. This presentation reports on a project that was undertaken by a multidisciplinary team to assess the dementia friendliness of Brisbane Airport (Domestic and International Terminals). With the very generous assistance of the Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) we walked through the terminals with people with dementia and their travel companions, who pointed out areas of the airport that they found difficult to navigate or comprehend. Using the Dementia Friendly Communities Environmental Assessment Tool (DFC-EAT) (Fleming & Bennett, 2015), we were then able to calculate a “Dementia Friendly” score for each segment of the journey through the airport. We found that the dementia friendly score varied from terminal to terminal as well as across various stages of the journey between drop-off or parking at the airport and boarding. From this assessment we were able to make several recommendations regarding the physical environment and customer assistance to enhance inclusion and the travel experience of people with dementia and their companions. With BAC responding to many of these recommendations and the related launch of an airport guide for travelers with dementia, Alzheimer’s Australia (now Dementia Australia) recently named Brisbane Airport as Australia’s first dementia-friendly airport.  References for this presentation: Professor Jill Franz (QUT), Dr Maria O’Reilly (CQU), Ms Nicole Shepherd (UQ).