Calgary’s inclusive offerings for people living with dementia continue to grow
Memory Lane Chorus
The Youth Singers of Calgary (YSC) and JB Music Therapy have partnered to create Memory Lane Chorus, an innovative choral program for people living with dementia and their care partners, family members and friends. During weekly 90-minute sessions, participants sing, socialize, and engage in music memory activities and therapeutic drum circles with certified music therapists.
Alida Lowe is the senior program, production and touring manager at YSC. She says the Memory Lane Chorus is tailored to participants’ abilities and strengths, creating a safe and confidence-building environment. Lowe says the program intends to include both new music and songs that hold special memories for its members.
The chorus began its first run in January 2019, with the capacity for up to 25 individuals living with dementia and 25 care partners and will end in April 2019 with a celebration and open house. The cost per pair is $375.
Learn more at youthsingers.org.
John McCaffery was diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia (YOD) in 2007 at the age of 48. McCaffery was an active person before his diagnosis, but he and his wife Cindy soon learned that Calgary had no relevant daytime support options for active people with YOD.
“I never met anybody or spent time with people my age who were having similar difficulties,” he says.
So, Cindy McCaffery and social entrepreneur Myrla Bulman created YouQuest, a wellness community for an underserved population with unique needs and abilities. In 2018, YouQuest received $50,000 from the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) to develop and evaluate the community-based wellness pilot. YouQuest provides weekly, full-day support to Calgarians with YOD, and its partnership with SAIT Recreation provides a host facility that gives participants full access to SAIT’s Wellness Centre. Pilot participants were selected based on a young onset diagnosis by 65 years of age (or prior symptoms and a later diagnosis), and their interest and ability to engage in the active public recreation setting.
The year-long pilot currently involves 10 participants and will continue through to September 2019.
“When the pilot project first started, very few of the participants knew each other,” says John McCaffery, who is on the board of directors for YouQuest acting as an advisor and informal participant in the program. “Now they’ve all come together. It’s nice to see the camaraderie and friendships that are developing.”
Learn more at youquest.ca.
Side by Side Program
Alice Post holds a few core beliefs: You don’t need a medical background to provide companionship to someone living with dementia; you don’t have to share the same religious beliefs to enjoy a moment of devotion; and you don’t have to carry a tune to join an afternoon singalong.
Post is the coordinator of Side by Side, an informal care program through St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Side by Side started in 2012 and now runs at two locations in Calgary, on Wednesdays at St. Andrew’s and on Thursdays at Varsity Acres Presbyterian Church, each with approximately five to eight participants. Care partners are offered respite while their loved ones living with dementia are thoughtfully paired with program volunteers.
The volunteers and their companions take part in Brain Gym to stimulate brain function, guided spiritual nurture with a minister, gentle seated exercise, creative time for crafts and games, guest speakers, music therapy, refreshments and singalongs.
Post says the objective is to provide “unobtrusive support” in a relaxed environment, where participants build confidence and social connections through fellowship.
Learn more at standrewscalgary.ca.
The Open Orchestra
For those living with dementia, a trip to the orchestra can be a strenuous, sometimes startling event. That’s why the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) and Inside Out Theatre have partnered to create The Open Orchestra: A Sensory Friendly Concert, a modified presentation of music’s best-loved pieces. The experience is part of Inside Out Theatre’s Good Host Program, an audience inclusion and accessibility program.
The CPO’s first “relaxed performance” took place in October 2018 at the Jack Singer Concert Hall and was directed by associate conductor Karl Hirzer. Dramatic sound effects, lighting and abrupt instrumental moments were edited, and guests were offered earplugs and a “visual story” brochure beforehand. Guests were also able to move freely about the theatre and make noise, loosening the etiquette often associated with attending the symphony. [ ]
Visit calgaryphil.com for The Open Orchestra’s upcoming dates and to learn more.