Reframing Dementia

An Interdisciplinary Workshop on the Dementia Experience

14-15 February 2017

An initiative of the Department of Anthropology (USYD) and the Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre (USYD)

The particular focuses of the workshop will include:

  • Developing a critical understanding of the social attitudes that have negative impacts for those in the dementia experience. How the medicalisation of dementia tends to create a more negative space, both for people experiencing cognitive decline as well as their family carers;
  • How neoliberal thinking exacerbates stigma through narrow understandings of the ‘normal’ person and the economic valuing of persons. Most human experiences are not being included as either normal or (economically) valuable;
  • The legacies and impacts of the philosophical mind-body split (which privileges cognition) and individualism on medical modelling and research;
  • Although dementia care has ostensibly moved to a ‘person-centred’ approach, what is meant by ‘the person’ is not well understood, and the training/support of carers (often locked into a biomedical model) in this respect is far from adequate, whether family or professional.
  • Ageism is alive and well. This impacts not only on the aged who require care, but also their carers who remain barely acknowledged. Financial and social supports remain negligible.

The focus in this project is not about ‘how to understand dementia as an illness’, nor about how to cure it. Rather, the focus is on how to live with dementia as an increasingly common experience of ageing; how to challenge the mind-body split that permeates biomedical models and privileges cognition and rationality in the human experience; how to reconceptualise ‘care’ and ensure that it is not medicalised but seen as a total social responsibility; and how to better support those directly involved. The task is to enable ourselves to provide more useful, relevant information and strategies, focusing on improving the quality of life of those with dementia and their friends and carers. Medicalising dementia is not an adequate or sufficient way to go to achieve this.

Our aim is to stimulate a big picture examination of these issues (ontological, philosophical, anthropological, social, medical) by bringing together an interdisciplinary group of people committed to challenging ageism, changing the negativity surrounding dementia, better supporting caregivers, and working towards a more caring society. Central is the notion of ‘the caring society’. Instead of seeing dementia as being ‘a challenge’, we need to challenge ourselves to think about and live with dementia in more informed sensitive ways. How can we create a more caring dementia-friendly society? 


For a full list of Presenters and their Abstracts, please go to



The deadline for Abstracts has passed. For the full program and details of presenters, please see:




You may now register online through this page. Please note that registration will be for two days. While a one day registration will be made available for Day 1, it will not be available for Day 2.

Places will be limited so as to ensure good opportunities for discussion and debate. Opportunity will be made during the Workshop to discuss the merits of a larger conference on the themes that arise.

We encourage participants to join us for a workshop dinner on the evening of Day 1. The cost will be $45.00 per person plus drinks (we will provide wines for you to contribute towards, BYO is fine but will attract corkage), and $35.00 for students/unemployed/seniors.