Despite its limited budget, the Whistler Mature Action Community's (MAC) "Making Connections" program has been a bright spot for locals living with dementia since it launched last October.
Now, MAC volunteers hope a major funding boost will yield even more positive impacts for that community.
In a release on Friday, June 9, the organization announced it has received a $21,440 grant from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program. The funding will support MAC's specialized program, which aims to delay cognitive decline in afflicted participants while offering caregivers space to connect with others in similar situations.
Typically featuring 45 minutes of gentle fitness, games and other mentally stimulating activities, and social time over a light lunch, the weekly Whistler Making Connections Dementia-Friendly Program also helps participants "break through the barrier of isolation, form new friendships and have fun in a welcoming environment," MAC explained in the release. Ultimately, "It should allow people with dementia to remain in their homes longer."
After a successful pilot in Spring Creek last fall, Whistler MAC decided to keep the program running on a more permanent basis in beginning in January. Since, Making Connections sessions have taken place at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church each Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The organization has "been thrilled to see the positive changes we have brought to the lives of participants," Whistler MAC project leader Charalyn Kriz said in the release. "It gives them something to look forward to, an opportunity to have fun, to make new friendships, to form their own support networks."
Support from Sea to Sky Community Services Better at Home program, Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church, Whistler Community Services Society and a roster of senior volunteers has enabled MAC to facilitate the program . supports the program over the last eight months.
Through grants, the federal New Horizons for Seniors Program supports community-led projects that empower seniors or help improve that demographic's health and well-being. Organizations are eligible to receive up to $25,000 in funding. Since 2004, the program has funded more than 30,000 projects across Canada.
Locally, the Making Connections programs is not exclusive to MAC members, or even Whistler residents. It is open to anyone in neighbouring communities who is willing to make the drive and pay the "nominal fee" of $5 per person, per session. Enroll on Whistler MAC's website, or contact Kriz at email@example.com to try a session for free.