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Funded Community Projects

As part of the SIIP project, community stakeholders in Waterloo Region submitted proposals for funding to expand or create new intergenerational projects. Below you will find key elements of the SIIP project that funded community projects considered when addressing social inclusion of older adults living with dementia and their care partners.

Intergenerational Partnerships

SIIP supports intergenerational programs that enable older adults living with dementia, their care partners, secondary and post-secondary-aged youth to interact in meaningful ways. This may involve sharing time, skills and experiences and building relationships with one another along the way. These programs not only benefit older adults, but also create experiential learning opportunities for youth that contribute to career development and empower them to be leaders and innovators in the community.

A few intergenerational programs already exist within Waterloo Region. SIIP will create opportunities to learn more about these local programs, as well as successful programs from elsewhere in Canada and internationally.

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning provides students with opportunities beyond the classroom to learn while doing. There are different types of opportunities for students to gain new skills and knowledge offered by colleges, universities and high schools: co-operative learning, internships and volunteer opportunities.

The SIIP project creates new opportunities for students to participate in experiential learning opportunities that involve intergenerational activities with isolated older adults.

Social Isolation

Social isolation is commonly defined as a low quantity and quality of contact with others. Social isolation is different than loneliness. Social isolation increases the likelihood of loneliness, a person can be lonely even when in the company of others.

The SIIP project is designed to reduce social isolation among older adults living with mild to moderate dementia, as well as their care partners, who are also at risk of social isolation as a result of their caregiving role. Within this group, dementia intersects with issues of language, gender and cultural identity that must also be considered as potential barriers to social inclusion.

Social inclusion means that people:

  • Experience a sense of belonging
  • Are accepted (for who they are) within their communities
  • Have valued roles in the community
  • Are actively participating in the community
  • Are involved in activities based on their personal preferences
  • Have social relationships with others whom they chose, and with whom they share common interests
  • Have friends

Dementia and Social Isolation

The challenges associated with dementia can make it difficult for those affected to establish or maintain personal relationships with friends, family members and the wider community.

Canadians living with dementia regularly experience many forms of discrimination and are often seen as incapable or their abilities are underestimated due to our stigmatized view of their condition.

For these reasons, living with dementia puts older adults at greater risk of social isolation.

Care partners of people living with dementia often report high levels of stress, loss of sleep, depression and feeling worried or frustrated. The overwhelming demands of their caregiving responsibilities can have a significant impact on their physical and mental health. Care partners of people with dementia are also at risk of becoming socially isolated.

According to the Alzheimer Society of Ontario, the number of people diagnosed with dementia in the Waterloo Wellington Health Integration Network is expected to increase to more than 13,500 in 2020.

Collective Impact

Collective impact brings people together, in a structured way, to achieve social change.

SIIP uses a collective impact approach to promote social inclusion for older adults living with dementia and their care partners. Collaborating organizations will work together, with support from the backbone organization, to develop a Collective Impact Plan that articulates a shared vision to reduce social isolation of older adults living with dementia, and their care partners, in Waterloo Region.

The 5 Conditions of Collective Impact

1 Common Agenda Coming together to collectively define the problem and create a shared vision to solve it
2 Shared Measurement Agreeing to track progress in the same way, which allows for continuous improvement
3 Mutually Reinforcing Activities Coordinating collective efforts to maximize the end result
4 Continuous Communication Building trust and relationships among all participants
5 Backbone Support Having a team dedicated to orchestrating the work of the group
John Kania and Mark Kramer, Stanford Social Innovation Review (Winter 2011), https://ssir.org/articles/entry/collective_impact

Framework for Social Interventions

SIIP funds intergenerational programs that fall within the four categories described in Kate Jopling’s framework for social interventions, developed for AgeUK and the Campaign to End Loneliness (Jopling, 2015).

Jopling’s review of effective interventions includes common activities such as social groups, friendly visiting, and physical activity programs. The framework, however, also introduces a more holistic view that considers promising approaches to identify socially isolated individuals and how to connect them to services, and approaches that focus less on the individual service and more on how a community responds to the challenges (i.e., the mechanisms by which direct interventions come into being).

SIIP projects foster intergenerational partnerships to promote social inclusion that intersect with the four areas in Jopling’s framework:

Foundation ServicesDirect InterventionsGateway ServicesStructural Enablers

Foundation Services

Foundation services are designed to reach isolated individuals, to understand their circumstances and then support them to access the services they need.

Foundation services include:

  • Referrals from health care professionals
  • Telephone referral systems (friends, family and neighbours can call to help connect an at-risk older adult with programs and services)
  • Telephone reassurance lines (trained volunteers call to check in on older adults)

Examples in Waterloo Region:

Program: Connectivity KW4
Organization: Carizon Family and Community Services
What it’s about: Local health and social service agencies work together to understand the needs of at-risk individuals in our community and help connect them with the services they need.

Program: First Link
Organization: Alzheimer Society Waterloo Wellington
What it’s about: A referral program designed to support individuals who have been newly diagnosed with dementia to get the services they need as soon as possible.

Direct Interventions

Direct interventions help people keep existing relationships, build new connections, and receive counselling support. These programs are in group settings or one-on-one.

Direct interventions include:

  • Music programs
  • Exercise programs (such as walking groups or dementia-friendly yoga)
  • Shared meals
  • Friendly visiting programs
  • Counselling services

Examples in Waterloo Region:

Program: Friendly visiting, meals on wheels, recreation programs, Youth Enabling Seniors
Organization: Community Support Connections and Community Care Concepts
What it’s about: Community organizations provide practical support for people in their homes, as well as social support and group programs that bring people together.

Program: Circle of Music Intergenerational Choir
Organization: Alzheimer Society Waterloo Wellington
What it’s about: People living with dementia, their care partners and students from local high schools sing songs together and build relationships.

Gateway Services

Gateway services help older adults to maintain their social connections and may encourage older adults to join new programs.

Gateway services include:

  • Transportation (such as volunteer drivers or specialized mobility services)
  • Technology (such as training programs or telephone befriending services)

Examples in Waterloo Region:

Program: Geriatrics technology support
Organization: EnTECH (University of Waterloo student club)
What it’s about: Student volunteers teach older adults how to use technology so they can connect to their friends and families. EnTECH has also created a simplified and more user-friendly version of email services.

Program: Specialized transit services
Organization: Kiwanis Transit
What it’s about: A transportation service for older adults and/or those with disabilities living in Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich Townships that provides rides for medical appointments, social activities and much more.

Structural Enablers

Structural enablers are community approaches that support the way programs and services are delivered.

Structural enablers include:

  • Volunteering
  • Building on community strengths (asset-based community development)
  • Neighbourhood approaches
  • Age-friendly or dementia-friendly communities

Examples in Waterloo Region:

Program: Community involvement for youth
Organization: Volunteer Action Centre
What it’s about: A database of youth-friendly volunteering options in Waterloo Region, including many programs that support older adults.

Program: Age-Friendly Community Plans
Organization: Cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, Township of Woolwich
What it’s about: Plans that identify priorities for supporting older adults to live a healthy and active life.