Our ultimate aim was to start a nationwide conversation about dementia that would result in a perception shift of the disease, and raise public awareness of the condition and its impact on our ageing society. We needed to lead by example, such that it’s not just a campaign per se, but a practical way to galvanise people to take action that will contribute to the welfare of Persons with Dementia (PWDs).
Dementia is a condition that affects 1 in every 10 seniors aged 60 years old and above, and 1 in every 2 seniors aged 80 years and above. In many Singaporean families, dementia is seen to be a natural part of ageing – it is not. Not only does the disease affect individuals, families and caregivers have to contend with the public stigma associated with it. No initiative was implemented even at a community level. Very few educational materials for communities and corporate businesses were available for them to learn necessary skills of assisting our growing population of PWDs.
Dementia is a disease that can happen to your grandparents, your parents and yourself… And if there is a way for PWDs to be cared and supported for by the very community they live with, would you play a role in making that happen? Our overall strategy was to lift the profile of dementia in Singapore, such that we can maximise media coverage to instigate debate and hopefully shape the national agenda on the issue. Our campaign ecosystem strongly pivoted around our launch video where the essence of what we are trying to do – building a dementia-friendly community – is showcased.
We wanted to be hyper-local focused and concentrated our communications efforts within Yishun itself. Campaign posters featured actual community stakeholders in Yishun town representing their own community archetype – the patrolling police officer, the provision shop employee, and the hawker stall owner. A disruptive cinema theatre trailer video and “movie poster” were also produced and put up at GV Yishun cinema to reach out to the youths in the estate.
As many elderly residents in Yishun do not use the Internet, we pioneered and used Getai (a boisterous music-based live performance) as a branded platform to communicate with our seniors. We roped in veteran getai performers in Singapore – Lim Ru Ping and Wang Lei – who were excellent at expressing usually sombre dementia issues in a humorous and entertaining fashion. They performed in Mandarin and Chinese dialects – great for our older target audience members as many are exclusively conversant in those languages.
To engage the masses, especially the youth, in self-reflection, we commissioned 3 reality social experiment videos that were published on YouTube. The videos forced the public to think about their actions when a PWD required their help in public and displayed the harsh truth about how little Singaporeans know about helping PWDs. They might have the heart to help, but neither the people in the videos nor the viewers have any relevant knowledge to do so. Willing volunteers needed to receive appropriate guidance to assist PWDs – and this information was readily available from our campaign website. We also tapped on SGAG’s fan base to shed light on dementia issues in a sensitive and light-hearted way, driving our target audiences to our website.
The launch of the Forget Us Not initiative received wide coverage in the media. The key message, of Yishun becoming Singapore’s first dementia-friendly estate, was captured in the coverage, which underscored the need for Dementia-Friendly Communities (DFCs) due to the rise of dementia. The replication of new DFCs has been included as an action item in the Ministry of Health’s Action Plan for Successful Ageing.