Vecova’s Dementia Wellness Program supports the wellbeing of people of all ages and abilities

July 11, 2022
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Vecova’s Dementia Wellness Program supports the wellbeing of people of all ages and abilities

  Over 500,000 Canadians have dementia today and 1 in 5 Canadians have experience caring for someone with dementia. The number of Canadians with dementia is predicted to rise to 912,000 by 2030 and the need for programs to support both those with dementia and their caregivers is more urgent than ever.   In January 2022, Vecova and the Alzheimer Society of Calgary met this need with the Dementia Wellness Program. In partnership with the University of Calgary, the program acted as a research study on the benefits of physical and cognitive exercises for older adults with dementia.   When the research study ended, Vecova still wanted to respond to the increased need for support for people with dementia and their caregivers. So the program continued, with the Alzheimer Society of Calgary, meeting our goal of creating an inclusive community that supports the good health and wellbeing of people of all ages and abilities.  

More than just a program

  Vecova’s Dementia Wellness Program is a tailored physical and cognitive exercise program for older adults with memory problems. Participants in the program meet bi-weekly to connect with each other and try new exercises and activities designed to stimulate their brains.   But there’s more to it than just activities – it’s also become a supportive community, for both the participants and their caregivers.   “We spend the first forty-five minutes getting settled, having a chat, seeing how everyone’s doing,” shares Heather Burke, the program leader. “We have a theme of the week. For example, this week we’re going to be talking about Canada Day. We also break into teams and play trivia games.”   After socializing, the participants head to Vecova’s Strength and Conditioning Room, where they work on their individual fitness plans before joining a group stretching session. Once the fitness session is over, the fun continues.   “We play more games, have more discussions and we play music. We do things that try to spark an emotion or a fond memory for them,” says Heather. “Everyone is in different stages. We try to do activities that include everyone and adapt them so that everyone will get something out of it.”   According to Peter, a participant in the program, it has already made a difference in his life.   “(The program has) played an important role in my health improvement and recovery with cardio and strengthening exercises as well as cognitive activities,” says Peter. “The challenges to my mental ability led me to areas that I have not experienced before such as visual arts.”   Peter continues, “This has been a discovery journey and has led me to think outside the box. For all that I have experienced during this program, I am grateful and appreciative to all of you, especially your friendly, caring attitudes and services to all the participants.”  

Our impact on caregivers

  It is just as important to create inclusive programs for caregivers to support their emotional and social wellbeing. In 2018, 25% of Canadians aged 15 or older reported that they had cared for or helped someone with a long-term health condition, physical or mental disability or problems related to aging such as dementia. Unmet caregiving support needs are associated with increased daily stress and a decrease in mental health that can result in burnout and fatigue.   Vecova’s Dementia Wellness Program provides a welcoming space for caregivers to connect with and support each other. Heather and Ali Cada, from the Alzheimer Society of Calgary, coordinate activities such as visual arts for caregivers to enjoy while participants are in the program.   “While my husband enjoys time with his group on various brain and exercise activities, I can spend time with my support group of caregivers and Ali,” shares Kris, Peter’s wife. “Through many conversations, we have shared our experiences, resources and stories.”   Caregivers are invited to take part in a variety of activities during the Dementia Wellness Program in support of their mental health and wellbeing.   “The highlight of the gatherings has been the visual arts provided by Ali. I can let go of my worries and focus on the moment and de-stress, whether through painting or drawing,” Kris says. “Ali’s positive outlook and encouraging words to use visual arts has improved my mental wellness and made me want to learn more. As a caregiver, I look forward to these weekly sessions.”   The impact that the Dementia Wellness Program has made on both its participants and their caregivers is what Heather likes the most about leading the program.   “Sometimes at the start of the day, some participants might come in a bit disoriented or confused. We’ll start playing certain kinds of music and then all of a sudden they say ‘that’s the Beach Boys’ and start dancing,” says Heather. “We get to witness that clarity and total enjoyment of the moment, and it’s just such a great feeling.”[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height="20"][nd_options_button nd_options_padding="15px 35px" nd_options_align="center" nd_options_font_weight="nd_options_font_weight_bold" nd_options_margin="5px" nd_options_font_family="nd_options_first_font" nd_options_link="|title:DONATE%20HERE" nd_options_bg_color="#f2a900" nd_options_text_color="#ffffff" nd_options_font_size="16" nd_options_border_radius="20"][nd_options_spacer nd_options_height="20"][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text]

Vecova is committed to creating inclusive, accessible and high-quality programs and services for persons with disabilities. We are prioritizing inclusion and building a future for people of all abilities where everyone is valued, belongs and thrives.


Your gift during Disability Pride Month can help us accomplish #InclusionForEveryone. A gift to Vecova of $35, $50, $100, or whatever you can manage, allows us to keep working towards #InclusionForEveryone.

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Join us in creating a future that fosters inclusion and cultivates growth.

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