Meet dementia advocate John Quinn

John Quinn is an Australian dementia advocate researching the effect a dementia diagnosis has on men and their sense of masculinity, inspired by his own personal experience.

The former Brisbane school principal was diagnosed with younger onset dementia in 2010 at the age of 59. Mr Quinn said he struggled with grief and shame after a successful 35-year career working as an educator and school administrator.

His underlying issue was that the diagnosis altered his sense of identity.

“Being in a position of authority and then having no job had a big impact on me,” Mr Quinn said.

“After my diagnosis, I felt that I couldn’t provide for my family and I felt ashamed.

“For my generation, men believed they were bulletproof and as far as going to the doctor was concerned, you avoided it, because it represented weakness.”

Mr Quinn was inspired to conduct his own research after hearing a speaker in Budapest two years ago. He has also been calling for an end to the stigma attached to dementia.

“What stigma does is disable you as a person – I am a good example of that. I never shared my diagnosis because I was in denial,” he said.

As part of his research, Mr Quinn spoke with people who shared his own diagnosis of younger onset dementia, which occurs in people under 65. He found that women were also struggling to speak openly about their condition.

“We need to tackle the stereotype out there of what a person with dementia looks like,” Mr Quinn said.

“Even though dementia is not a lifestyle choice, we can choose our lifestyle, and we can choose to live well with dementia.”


Image credit: Lisa White Photographer

John Quinn is speaking on the morning of Day 2 of the International Dementia Conference on Masculinity and Social Mores – How can gender, and the era in which you are born, influence the impact of your diagnosis of dementia?