Monday, 17 September 2007

It's often an event at the Sydney Masonic Centre but today was my first chance to see inside the main chamber. Last time I went there was for a rare book fair. Today, it was a conference on dementia.

The SMC is in the 'brutalist' style typical of many 70s-vintage buildings but to me it's beautiful and I've always thought so. Far more attractive, in my eyes, than the bland, fully-glazed pipes typical of the following dacade.

Inside, the SMC is an average event centre, with rooms leading off corridors. But in the chamber I sat in from 3.30 to 5 this afternoon, there were some things to remark. It has benches around the periphery. The ticking on the benches is worn, cream-coloured cloth. A dais with a pelmet in an 18th-century, neo-classical style is set against the north wall. There is a gallery up a flight of stairs.

Most strange, however, is a large, golden 'G' hanging from a cord attached to the ceiling. Wonder what it means?

For the conference they set up a table to the fore of the dais for speakers, including ABC journalist Sophie Scott. You know her if you live in this country. She specialises in health stories, always placed near the end of the broadcast. She's something of a fave of mine. She's just published a book, Live a Longer Life.

It includes bits about dementia and ways to reduce risk of onset. Many of these are lifestyle choices, such as regular exercise, antioxidant-rich foods, and mental stimulation.

An earlier session about handling dementia among people from non-English-speaking backgrounds was also highly illuminating. Tomorrow I go to see our 'client' and will also talk with Chinese dementia carers in a nearby suburb. Assessment is relentless and I've got about 5000 words to write for this unit of study.

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