The Alzheimer Society of Toronto is responding to the growing call for programs for people living with early-onset dementia.
The Boomers Club is a new 8-week program that focuses on wellness for the people with early-onset dementia (under age 65) and their care partners. The idea is to encourage exercise and personal connection in a fun social setting. The program is flexible and can be modified based on the needs and interests of the group participants, and aims to encourage bonding between people who are on the same journey.
Most adult day programs are geared towards people who may be in their eighties, whereas early onset often begins when people are in their forties or fifties. AST Social Worker Ekta Hattangady says The Boomers Club is a unique, multi-faceted program that strives to serve these younger people and help them remain self-reliant. “We’ve been getting a lot of people from the community requesting programs for younger clients,” says Ekta. “In many adult day programs, you see people who are much more progressed in the dementia. But for younger people, there are fewer options, community-wide.”
Ekta says people with early-onset dementia can have a particularly difficult time adjusting socially. “There are a lot of people who live by themselves, or don’t have children,” says Ekta. “And when they have early-onset, they basically lose their connections. So they want to maintain their spirit of independence and they need to be around people they can relate to.”
Participants can expect an energetic program with a strong emphasis on socialization and exercise. “People should know that it’s going to be fun,” says Ekta. “When you hear about dementia, fun is not the first thing that comes to mind, so we really want to make it enjoyable for the participants. This is a time for people to connect the way that they used to, to explore their social connections.”
Ekta says that the Alzheimer Society will continue to respond to the needs of those living with dementia. “It’s about how we can be connected with them over a period of time, and addressing the existing service gaps for people with early-onset dementia,” she says.