The Alzheimer Society of Grey- Bruce is one of six local Societies in Ontario introducing a new physical and mental activity program for individuals in the early to mid-stages of dementia and for their care partners.

March is National Brain Awareness Month. With increasing evidence linking a physically active and mentally stimulating lifestyle to reducing the risk of developing dementia or slowing the progression of the disease it is an appropriate time to introduce the new Minds in Motion® program in Grey-Bruce.

Minds in Motion® is a fun and family-friendly program that offers two hours a week of combined physical exercise and mentally stimulating activities.

We are pleased to be at the forefront of the introduction of this program to Ontario,” said Deborah Barker, Executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Grey-Bruce. “We believe in offering innovative and progressive programs for our clients and their families.”

The eight-week sessions will be offered in Hanover and in Owen Sound in order to provide opportunities for clients from all across Grey-Bruce.

We are pleased that the Hanover Parks, Recreation and Culture Department and the YMCA of Owen Sound Grey Bruce have agreed to offer these programs,” Barker said. “We are grateful for their partnership, leadership and support.”

There will be three eight-week sessions in each location in each of the next two years. The first 2014 session starts Tuesday April 8 in Hanover from 9:15 to 11:15 a.m. at the P & H Centre. The first Owen Sound session starts Friday April 25 from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at the Family YMCA Health and Fitness facility located in the Julie McArthur Regional Recreation Centre. Two more sessions will be offered in each location in the fall. The cost for participants is $40 per couple.

The sessions are designed to stimulate mind and body, and also to create an opportunity for people to meet and establish new friendships with others in their community who are going through the same experience,” Barker said.

Continued socialization is important to maintaining the best quality of life throughout the course of the disease,” Barker said. “Regular physical activity for people with dementia leads to a significant reduction in depression, an increased sense of independence and an improvement in quality of life.”

There are real benefits for the care partners as well, Barker said.

Bringing together people with dementia and their care partners is the opportunity to normalize the relationship in a way that is not influenced by illness,” she said.

The program will also provide care partners with new strategies to help them improve the quality of life of the person they are supporting. The benefits of this program will extend beyond the formal eight-week session.

Minds in Motion® will help care partners to focus on their own health as well, rather than focusing exclusively on the needs of the person they are caring for,” Barker said.

Minds in Motion® involves a 45 to 60 minutes physical activity session led by trained physical activity program leaders from the Family YMCA and the Hanover Parks, Recreation and Culture Department and a 45 to 60 minutes of mentally stimulating activity led by a Minds in Motion® coordinator and volunteers. Healthy snacks will also be provided.

Minds in Motion® was developed by the Alzheimer Society of British Columbia in 2009 and is currently being delivered in over 20 sites across that province.

Research continues to show that physical activity and mental stimulation are good for you, and good for your brain,” Barker said. “They encourage the development of new cells and new connections, a process the brain is capable of doing at any age! Not only can this slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, it can decrease the risk of developing the disease.”

The Alzheimer Society of Ontario is now piloting the program in six Alzheimer Societies thanks to start-up funds from the Ontario Brain Institute. Other reputable national and provincial partners are helping frame the Ontario program, including:

  • The Canadian Centre for Activity and Ageing developed the physical activity framework and program curriculum and provided training to the physical activity program leaders, either directly or through the training of regionally-based trainers.

  • Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care advised on framework for the recreational component of the program.

  • A team from Brock University’s Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies developed the mental stimulation and meaningful activity framework for the program.

  • Older Adult Centres Association of Ontario is supporting the delivery of this program in their local centres.

  • Parks and Recreation Ontario, a provincial membership-based association, is supporting the project by engaging their municipal and non-profit recreation members.

  • A team from the University of Waterloo’s Kinesiology Department is leading the evaluation of the physical activity component of the Minds in Motion pilot project.

  • The Alzheimer Society of Ontario developed the training curriculum used to educate the physical activity program leaders and volunteers about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Call the Alzheimer Society of Grey-Bruce to learn more and to register at 519-376-7230 or 1-800-265-9013