Three Yorkton-area organizations have been selected to participate in a project that will support greater social inclusion of older adults living with dementia and their care partners. The five-year Interventions to Enhance Social Inclusion of Older Adults with Dementia in Saskatchewan project was announced in November 2019 after receiving a $3 million dollar contribution agreement, funded by the Government of Canada under the New Horizons for Seniors Program. The project is being conducted through the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit (SPHERU), a research centre based at both the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan.
The project is being led by Dr. Bonnie Jeffery, a professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Regina. The team also includes Dr. Tom McIntosh, professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies, and Dr. Nuelle Novik, associate professor in the Faculty of Social Work.
After determining that Yorkton and the surrounding rural areas would be the focus of this project, the team held information sessions and connected with many Yorkton-area organizations. The team is pleased to announce that the first sub-projects to be supported will be led by three collaborating organizations. The Yorkton branch of SaskAbilities, the City of Yorkton, and the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan will now be implementing their own sub-projects as part of the larger project.
“We have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year now, and it has caused many older adults to feel isolated from their friends and families, especially those living with dementia,” says Jeffery. “We are proud to partner with these three organizations and work together to support older adults with dementia in Yorkton and the surrounding communities. We plan to continue to work with other organizations to support additional projects, especially those that focus on rural communities in the area.”
The Yorkton branch of SaskAbilities is proud to be part of the collaborative effort to launch a Dementia Friendly Life Enrichment Program. This program will enhance the quality of life of individuals living with dementia in Yorkton and surrounding rural communities. Two dementia-friendly facilitators will work with individuals and their families to develop person-centred plans that will guide programming and activities in the individual living with dementia’s home and community.
“We are so pleased to have the opportunity to expand our services to individuals who are living with dementia within Yorkton and surrounding rural communities,” says Jackie Washenfelder, Quality of Life Senior Supervisor with SaskAbilities. “It is our goal to enrich people’s lives by engaging them in meaningful activity, thus increasing their quality of life, while at the same time reducing isolation and caregiver burnout.”
The City of Yorkton’s Public Indoor Facility Audit project will encourage facilities to be more inclusive and accessible for seniors living in Yorkton, including those living with dementia. The City of Yorkton will hire an independent contractor and engage community members with lived experiences to help assess public indoor environments. The contractor will develop and use a checklist for each public facility to create an Age and Dementia-Friendly Facilities Audit Report.
"We are excited that, with the support of SPHERU, we can create a tool and method to guide us in creating more inclusive spaces,” says Lisa Washington, Community Development Manager with the City of Yorkton. "It is important that seniors and all our residents, including those with dementia, feel welcome and are able to access our indoor public spaces with the least amount of barriers."
The Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan’s project will build general awareness about dementia; reduce stigma; and facilitate the involvement of local organizations, businesses, and individuals in dementia-friendly community initiatives. The project will include an awareness campaign and extensive community engagement to help organizations and community groups become more inclusive and accessible for people living with dementia. This work will be supported by a new staff position located in the Yorkton region.
“The Alzheimer Society is excited to be part of this locally-driven project to make our communities more inclusive and accessible for people living with dementia and their care partners,” says Les Quennell, Director of Public Awareness and Communications with the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan. “We believe that the project’s focus on rural communities will create a better understanding of how to serve people with dementia in rural communities, not only in the project area, but in the rest of the province and the country.”
Jeffery noted that a further two projects are under development and will be announced in the coming months. SPHERU is also considering a 'call for proposals' for additional projects subject to available funding.