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Making Connections

Dementia Friendly Social Club

Whistler MAC’s Making Connections is a weekly program for people with dementia and their caregivers in the Sea to Sky Corridor. The goal is to slow cognitive decline in the afflicted and to allow caregivers to bond, share experiences and develop their own support networks. Each session starts with 45 minutes of gentle fitness, followed by games and brain stimulating activities, music, and socializing over a light lunch. To many, it is the high point of their week as they make new friends and have fun. Since January 2024, caregiver support sessions have been offered in tandem with our participant sessions, once a month through the Sea to Sky Hospice Society.

Regular stream programs are often not appropriate for people with dementia which leads to stress, confusion, and unpleasant experiences. The program also gives caregivers an opportunity to socialize and network with those in similar situations. It will allow them to break through the barrier of isolation, form new friendships and have fun in a welcoming environment. One of the goals of the program is to allow people with dementia to remain in their homes longer.

People with dementia and their caregivers become increasingly isolated as their loved one declines, and socializing becomes more difficult and rare.  In the fall of 2023, the WHO declared loneliness in seniors an epidemic that can lead to dementia and adversely affect mental and physical health.  Loneliness and social isolation are key risk factors for mental health conditions in later life. 

The Making Connections dementia-friendly program was developed and introduced by Board Member Charalyn Kriz on behalf of MAC. It first appeared as a 5-session pilot held every two weeks for 2 ½ hours from late October to December 2022. Sea to Sky Community Services Better at Home program supported the pilot.

Making Connections is based on the Alzheimer Society’s Minds in Motion ™ program for people with early-stage dementia and their caregivers. It filled an important gap in local services to seniors in the Sea to Sky Corridor, since the Minds in Motion™ program was not available in Whistler. The program is open to people with varying degrees of cognitive decline as long as they are not disruptive or violent.

Based on the success of the pilot, in January 2023 a weekly program was launched at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church and the diocese provided the use of the church free of charge since there was no money for rent. Lunch was still provided by the Better at Home program, and MAC and participant fees of $5 per person per session covered the costs of fitness and activities until the end of March.  About 20 security cleared seniors from across the community volunteered in shifts to assist with the activities, serving hot beverages and lunch and moving the chairs to ready the sanctuary for fitness and activities.

In April 2023, the Whistler Mature Action Community (MAC) received a $21,440 grant from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program. This program is a federal grants and contributions program whose goal is to support projects that help improve the well-being of seniors and foster social inclusion and engagement in their communities. Patrick Weiler, Member of Parliament for West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country presented the cheque and commented “The Whistler Mature Action Community’s dedication is very critical in creating a nurturing environment for seniors and enhancing their quality of life in our community. Programs such as Making Connections are needed for seniors and families who are navigating the very complex realities of dementia and offering them a path to renewed connections and shared experiences.” This grant allowed us to pay the church rental fees and to cover the costs of fitness instruction and equipment, lunch and music therapy once a month starting in the fall. 

“We have been thrilled to see the positive changes we have brought to the lives of participants; it gives them something to look forward to, an opportunity to have fun, to make new friendships, to form their own support networks,” said Charalyn Kriz, Project Leader, Whistler MAC.

A caregiver noted, “We have always been social people, but dementia has the effect of isolating us both. The Making Connections Program is exactly what we need. We enjoy the activities and meeting other people who share similar challenges.”

MAC is grateful for the support from Sea to Sky Community Services Better at Home program and Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church which enabled us to offer the program since October 2022. 

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Making Connection: July 2024

Please sign up for one month at a time. Once weekly timeslots are for new participants or additional caregivers accompanying a participant.

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Additional Caregiver

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Description

5 sessions – July 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31.

Please sign up for one month at a time. Once weekly timeslots are for new participants or additional caregivers accompanying a participant.

Options to choose from:
  • Participant and Caregiver (5 sessions – July 3, 10, 17, 24, 31): $50
  • Participant and Caregiver (July 3 session only): $10
  • Additional Caregiver (July 3 session only): $5
  • Participant and Caregiver (July 10 session only): $10
  • Additional Caregiver (July 10 session only): $5
  • Participant and Caregiver (July 17 session only): $10
  • Additional Caregiver (July 17 session only): $5
  • Participant and Caregiver (July 24 session only): $10
  • Additional Caregiver (July 24 session only): $5
  • Participant and Caregiver (July 31 session only): $10
  • Additional Caregiver (July 31 session only): $5
No limit to the number of tickets available.

Additional information

Packages

Participant and Caregiver (5 sessions – July 3, 10, 17, 24, 31), Participant and Caregiver (July 3 session only), Additional Caregiver (July 3 session only), Participant and Caregiver (July 10 session only), Additional Caregiver (July 10 session only), Participant and Caregiver (July 17 session only), Additional Caregiver (July 17 session only), Participant and Caregiver (July 24 session only), Additional Caregiver (July 24 session only), Participant and Caregiver (July 31 session only), Additional Caregiver (July 31 session only)

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