Momentum’s been building at Thunder Bay’s Dementia Café recently as more and more people get connected, send online inquiries, and show up to take part.
The weekly event held at beautiful Urban Abbey on Red River Road requires no diagnoses or explanation for entry. Just an interest in being there is needed, a timely mandate given Ontario no longer offers any kind of self referral system for people wondering about getting tested.
“Particularly in Thunder Bay, we have huge numbers of family doctors retiring and no one replacing them,” said Dr. Elaine Wiersma, who recently passed the torch as head of the Centre for Education and Research on Aging and Health. “So, if folks don’t have a primary care provider, there is no way for them to get into the system to receive a diagnosis.” This leaves them isolated at a critical time when they most need support. The Dementia Café is a fantastic remedy for this, offering people a chance to acquaint themselves with community members who really understand: advocates, care givers and people with lived experience.
Also growing is Thunder Bay’s key dementia advocacy group, the North West Dementia Working Group (NWDWG). “We had about 18 people at our last meeting,” Dr. Wiersma was excited to share. “We’re outgrowing the space!” The NWDWG met with Ontario Health recently to address the lack of self referral options for people who suspect they may have a form of dementia. They’re currently working on advocacy initiatives around reinstating that self referral option in the province.
Thunder Bay Museum’s recent visit to the Dementia Café at Urban Abbey was such a hit they’ve planned several more visits. The team brought vintage video footage of important local historical events, and shared them with attendees, who were charmed by the experience. They’re booked in for November, as well as a few other dates in the new year.
In other news, The Centre for Education and Research on Aging and Health arranged a group hike at the end of September for the community where, according to attendees, the 81-year-old and 77-year-old participants “hiked the younger ones into the ground.” The centre has submitted a funding proposal for a one-year project aimed at building capacity for walking programs in the area: activity-based research that would investigate the meaning of walking, and its physical, social, and cognitive benefits.
On October 5th, the Westside Seniors Hub’s Quarterly Meeting held its Quarterly Partners Meeting. Topics covered included social prescribing, asset mapping, and the Fireweed Club, a tenacious and inviting community group started by Andrea Sara of the Dunbar Residents’ Association.
On October 12th, the Building Capacity Project team held a training event at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House using the Flipping Stigma Toolkit as a conversation starter. The event was well received by the 40 staff members in attendance, and facilitators asked the crowd to mix up their staff groups throughout the event, which sparked lovely, rich conversation.
Check the Toolkit Here
Kits Neighbourhood House currently has an intern from The Netherlands working with them. Her name is Iris, and she brings incredible energy to the work. The Netherlands has a strong understanding of dementia integrated across generations, so Iris brings that wonderful perspective to things, and is a great support for Seniors and Housing Coordinator Thais Lopes, with whom she’s working.
On October 18th and 19th Kitsilano Community Centre hosted two successful focus groups for people dealing with memory loss, aimed at guiding the community centre on making their programming more inclusive. More than 15 people registered in total for these inspiring sessions. Topics raised included the need for a social group, for programs or events related to maintaining brain health, and for doing activities that would be beneficial as well as fun for people dealing with memory loss, including gardening, tai chi, and other outdoor activities.
Building on the event at Kits Neighbourhood House, ASK Friendship Centre did a similar training on October 25th, and the Vancouver Public Library has a similar round table style training planned for their staff on November 22nd as well, which will be facilitated in partnership with the Alzheimer Society and will also use the Flipping Stigma Toolkit as a jumping off point of conversation.
To cap off a busy November calendar of Dementia Ventures events, West Point Grey United Church has scheduled two workshops on dementia this month for congregation members. They will be offered both in English and Mandarin.
- The first one on November 16th, is entitled “Dementia: An Introduction to Brain Health”
- The second one on November 30th is called “Dementia Friends.”
They are free for congregation members and include refreshments and great insight.
Learn more about the events
Learn More about the Building Capacity Project