Imagine yourself at the World Music Day celebration in your downtown. It’s a sunny afternoon. Each corner occupied by a musical group that is singing, drumming, or dancing to the tunes from distant lands. Some familiar rhythms while some are novel. Some voices are so bright that one forgets to record and just keeps dancing. You and your friend manage to grab an iced lemon tea as your lazy steps want to keep walking around.
NOW imagine not being able to do any of this…
Not being able to participate in community activities feels depressing, and isolating. Community activities such as cultural events, charity drives, sports, and concerts provide us a social connection with our fellow residents. Persons with dementia are often shunned from community activities as dementia-friendly infrastructure is not in place. The caregivers also report that they prefer to keep persons with dementia at home as going out is full of challenges.
Research shows that the participation in community activities improves a sense of self-worth in persons with dementia. In a dementia-friendly community, persons with dementia are viewed as valued members of society. Dementia-friendly communities are encouraging participation of persons with dementia in community activities by making the activities dementia-friendly and also by designing the activities. For instance, many music groups interact with their audience in a dementia-friendly approach. Along with a verbal commentary, the information about the music played is shared in a hand-out form. This helps persons with dementia learn more about the music being played. Some singing groups provide a printed copy of the song, so that persons with dementia can follow the song or even sing along.
Some dementia-friendly communities conduct special activities for persons with dementia. A special activity does not mean creating “supervised activities” for persons with dementia. It is more about offering a chance to interact with others, an opportunity to learn a new skill or practice an old skill. To plan and execute such activities, the government agencies, dementia-friendly local organizations, and caregivers work closely.
Some communities have a dementia-friendly gardening club, which is a great way to interact with people with or without dementia. During the club meetings held in late afternoons, persons with dementia are provided more information about various gardening activities. Additionally, the club provides seed, dirt, tools for gardening, and water needed to plant a garden. Often young adults or children also participate in these after-school gardening activities as a part of ‘intergenerational gardening’ initiatives.
Community sports activities can be easily adapted for persons with dementia. The staff at recreational activity centers is provided dementia awareness training so that they can assist persons with dementia in a better way. For instance, bowling alleys have loud music and bright lights. Persons with dementia enjoy bowling with soft music or no music. Having dementia friendly bowling afternoons gives persons with dementia a chance to practise bowling.
As persons living with dementia participate in these community activities, the caregivers are concerned about their safety. At AlzCare Labs, we believe that keeping persons with dementia safe is a community responsibility and not a ‘burden’ to be carried by the caregivers. We are creating new products such as PreSafe that focus on the safety of persons with dementia. For further information, connect with us at contact@alzcare.