Newly-appointed Alzheimer’s Otago manager Liz Harburg is adapting to both a new city and a new role, in her fourth month in Dunedin.
Formerly part of the executive team of Diabetes Queensland, Mrs Harburg moved to Dunedin in April with her husband and two young children, and is enjoying the city so far – apart from the chilly temperatures.
“The cold is taking some adjustment, but it’s also nice to come back to a smaller centre – there is a really nice community feel here,” she said.
“There is something special about regional areas and the way people come together, plus it’s a great place to raise kids.”
Now in her second week in the Alzheimer’s Otago manager’s role, Mrs Harburg has visited the society’s offices in Alexandra and Queenstown, and is getting to know the community educators there and in Dunedin.
Alzheimer’s Otago recently moved to a larger space, upstairs at Community House, and Mrs Harburg is impressed by the grouping of not-for-profit organisations within the Moray Pl building.
“It is amazing to have them all grouped together this way – it helps to break down silos and provides increased support.”
While the size of Alzheimer’s Otago is significantly smaller than Diabetes Queensland – which has 90 staff – the focus of the work is similar.
“We work to engage with the community and to support people and their families living with dementia – that is what is most important.”
Alzheimer’s Otago covers Dunedin, North Otago, Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes, employing seven staff and working with about 500 families.
Society board chairman Maurice Burrowes said the organisation was facing the issue of limited resources and increasing demand in relation to the ageing population.
Age is the greatest risk factor for dementia, which affects about 1 in 20 people aged over 65 years and 1 in 5 aged over 80 years. Most of these people will have Alzheimer’s disease.
“It is important that we continue to respond to that increasing demand,” Mr Burrowes said.
Alzheimer’s Otago had a strategic plan in place, and further planning for the future would be a priority “once Liz has got her feet under the desk”, he said.
Mrs Harburg replaces long-serving Alzheimer’s Otago manager Julie Butler, who stepped down in March after 18 years in the role.