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April News 2023

This past month has been all about growth and expansion: celebrating what’s been done so far and planning how to keep things growing, evolving, and expanding.

Read on to hear all about our exciting progress!




This past month, the Building Capacity Project came together in our two sites (Vancouver and Thunder Bay) to celebrate the incredible work that’s been done by community partners, research team members, and action group leaders in the past few years thanks to federal grant money provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Both the Vancouver team and the Thunder Bay team gathered in their respective locations and connected via Zoom to reflect on what’s been done, what’s in the works, and how we can move forward, scaling deeper into ongoing work, scaling out into new communities, and scaling up into government policy, leading more positive, inclusive perceptions about dementia in general.

Both Thunder Bay’s team and Vancouver’s team showed short films representing meaningful progress, and we heard from community partners about what they’ve accomplished, and what the work means to them personally.

Watch the BCP short documentary below.

We also heard from action group members living with dementia, about just how vital it is for this work to be led and informed by people with lived experience. Bill Heibein and Clara Mersereau represented the North West Dementia Working Group in Thunder Bay; and Myrna Norman and Lynn Jackson represented the Flipping Stigma Action Group in Vancouver.

They shared important insights about how empowering initiatives like these can be, and what kind of potential they have for affecting broader positive change. Their voices have become the backbone of everything and continue to guide our progress as we look forward to the next phase.




As follow up to their highly popular Healthy Brain and Dementia Friends event in November, West Point Grey United Church hosted a Flipping Stigma training event mid march to introduce their congregation to the online stigma-reduction tool.

Facilitated by Ania Landy, and with Lynn Jackson representing the Flipping Stigma Toolkit Action Group, the session featured an orientation to the toolkit, several real life vignettes, and a video highlighting Lynn's story, recounting her dementia journey. Now a retired nurse living in Sidney, BC, she has become heavily involved in promoting the toolkit, including participating in numerous trainings for Building Capacity Project partners.

The event opened further conversation about increased equity for families facing dementia diagnoses, and amplified awareness of what people with dementia are still very capable of contributing to society. Following the initial presentation, the audience broke into discussion groups (one in person, one online) to delve deeper into the toolkit material and discuss what that meant for the congregation in terms of making their space more inclusive.

Lynn Jackson suggested adopting a stance of compassionate curiosity, asking “how can I help” and being openminded and receptive to the answer.

Following the event, participants had the opportunity to ask Lynn questions about her experience with dementia: how she was diagnosed, what’s worked for her, and her key strategies for living well with dementia. She shared her experience of starting an online support group through the (DASNI) Dementia Advocacy and Support Network International, as well as a story about being contacted by a writer who wanted to attend that support group to better understand dementia, and who, as a result of being part of that group, wrote the New York Times best-selling book Still Alice.

Coordinated by congregation leader Karen Hunter, and simultaneously translated into Mandarin by official church translator Linda Liang, the event drew 19 participants in person as well as 10 online.




Kits Neighbourhood House held an exciting intergenerational story telling event last month inspired by social work intern Iris Brouwer who is visiting Canada for the year from the Netherlands.

The event featured widely acclaimed Vancouver author Fiona Tinwei Lam who read her story The Rainbow Rocket to children in attendance, a tale of young James’ adventure to visit his grandmother who lives with Alzheimer disease.

The book highlights the boy’s relationship with his grandmother and how he “finds a meaningful way to honour his grandmother’s rich legacy of art” through the Chinese holiday of Ching Ming.

The kids who attended the event shared some of their own stories afterwards as well and people connected with each other over the drawing table and games station facilitators had set up. Kits House volunteer Karen Thorpe sang a series of memory songs she wrote herself and participants all received workbooks from the Alzheimer Society to take home and use as a way of better understanding dementia.

For anyone interested in reading Tinwei Lam’s book, it’s available to read or borrow at Kits Neighbourhood House.




South Granville Seniors Centre enjoyed another in-person Happy Memories Café this month featuring guest speaker Karen Tyrell, a dementia consultant and educator who gave insightful ideas about how to reduce the risk of dementia, and what to do when you receive a diagnosis.

The event, which ran from 11 am to 2 pm, began with a movement component. Participants were invited to do some light exercise to soothing classical music using colourful scarves. Then they listened to the presenter, and lastly, they had lunch together and made a collective collage, choosing cut outs of images that reflected aspects of their lives. The collage will now identify the Happy Memories Café group going forward and serve as a wonderful reminder of a stimulating and fun day of connection for all who attended.

This month’s café had a big turn out, and all participants really enjoyed the range of activities and the chance to connect with each other. It’s been an in-person event since January, 2023, and things are already off to a fantastic start!




On March 26th, participants of the Dementia Café at Thunder Bay’s Urban Abbey, along with CERAH (Centre for Education and Research on Aging and Health) representatives, community partners, connectors, and volunteers gathered to celebrate its 5th anniversary.

The group prepared coffee, tea and treats to share. Staring with Elaine Wiersma’s 5th anniversary greeting, we then had a chance to hear from participants about what this dementia cafe has meant to them. After a brief history of the café, we enjoyed looking at photos from all the gatherings over the years, and then had the opportunity to freely express through the art of collage our love for the cafe and what we want to do in the future.

Stay tuned for all the entertaining activities we have planned!




On March 23rd, Dr. Elaine Wiersma and a few members of the North West Dementia Working Group presented “Through our Eyes” at the Aging & Health Seminar in Conmee, Ontario.

The presentation was developed in partnership with people with dementia and care partners, and it delved into the appropriate language and communication to use with people living with dementia as well as insights about the associated stigma. Also, several people living with dementia and their care partners shared their personal experiences of how dementia and its stigma has affected them personally. The presentation was very well received by its audience.



The "TCOL" program, which started on Feb. 16th, will come to an end Apr. 16th.

We had a wonderful time sharing our own experiences and tips on how best to manage dementia. Facilitators of the program have planned a wrap-up party on April 13 which will include good music, tea, coffee and treats, as well as cuddles with the therapy dog.


Learn More about the Building Capacity Project

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