Following a highly successful pilot, Whistler’s Mature Action Community (MAC) is officially launching a dementia help program that seeks to connect Whistler’s seniors and caregivers with resources to help combat cognitive decline.
Starting Jan. 11, the Making Connections program will now be held at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church at the end of Lorimer Road. The sessions will run weekly on Wednesday mornings from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The dementia care pilot program launched at 1519 Spring Creek Drive in the fall to help people with dementia and their caregivers by slowing cognitive decline and allowing them to socialize with others in the same situation, which helps break through isolation barriers and develop support networks.
According to MAC director Charalyn Kriz, the pilot’s success exceeded expectations, with the caregivers, in particular, feeling a sense of relief from having other people share the experience.
“One person told me that she got her life back, and she said I had made such a big improvement in her life that I couldn’t imagine. She had little opportunity to socialize, and suddenly she had this group of kindred spirits that she could meet with and share experiences with,” Kriz said.
“When I started this project, I had blinders on, and I thought it would help the people with dementia to help slow their decline, but what has happened is the caregivers have benefited so much, because they support each other. They share ideas, and they offer to help each other.”
During the pilot, space constraints at the Spring Creek location led to only a dozen available spots, which resulted in a waitlist forming. The new area opens the program to more participants, and Kris strongly encourages people to participate.
“As we now have the space, we encourage caregivers of those with early-stage dementia to take advantage of this opportunity to meet in a welcoming environment to exercise, have fun and socialize, break through the barrier of isolation, develop friendships and make connections,” she said.
For the first three months of 2023, the program will be funded through nominal fees from participants, with additional support from MAC and the Sea to Sky Community Services United Way Better at Home program.
MAC is optimistic that the program will soon transition to the Alzheimer Society Minds in Motion program later in the spring, supported incrementally by funds from other sources.
The sessions cost $5 per person, per session ($35 per person for the first block), which entitles participants to all program components, 45 minutes of gentle fitness, games and other mentally stimulating activities, and socializing over a light lunch.
Participants can sign up under the events tab at whistlermac.org.