Profile photo of Kate Middleton wearing a blue shirt

Laura Middleton
> Professor, Kinesiology and Health Sciences

A group of researchers from the University of Waterloo is providing community partners with training and resources to support people living with dementia. The research project, Dementia Resources for Eating, Activity and Meaningful Inclusion (DREAM), aims to improve knowledge and attitudes around physical activity, healthy diet and inclusive programming. 


“Instead of specialized programs for people living with dementia, our resources aim to give current wellness providers, such as exercise instructors, dieticians and those who provide cultural, religious or other community programming, the ability to adapt their current services to be more inclusive,” says Laura Middleton, a Kinesiology and Health Sciences professor who leads the project. 

January marks Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, over 500 thousand Canadians are currently living with dementia. That number is expected to increase to 912 thousand by 2030. Women make up 70 per cent of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease.  

“People living with dementia have a right to benefit from health care and rehabilitation through exercise and support for healthy eating, and to participate in recreational and leisure activities in their communities,” says Middleton. “This is a right supported by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability.” 

The DREAM project is co-led by Middleton and Heather Keller, another Kinesiology and Health Sciences professor. It brings together 40 people and 15 organizations to develop and deliver training modules, pilot test and evaluate wellness programs to ensure they meet the needs and preferences of people living with dementia and their care partners. The training includes information on abilities, challenges and the rights of people living with dementia. It makes recommendations for communication, program delivery and facility design. 

“Our goal is to help community wellness program providers understand dementia and how to engage people living with dementia in their programs," says Middleton. “Our resources work to de-stigmatize dementia and teach how small changes can support inclusion. It can be as simple as reducing noise or using clear communication in program delivery. Ultimately, these accommodations will benefit others in the community as well, such as those with stroke or Parkinson’s disease or those living with cognitive or learning delays.” 

Funded by a Public Health Agency grant, the project has completed its first stage: the co-development of video and learning materials with exercise professionals, dieticians and other community partners. The training modules can be completed online and are free to access for anyone. Resources for people living with dementia and their families to learn about ways to improve their well-being are also available. The second phase of the project, which has just begun, includes the implementation and evaluation of training and programming. The long-term goal is to improve the number, quality and variety of physical activity, healthy eating and wellness opportunities available to people living with dementia.