Approximately 74,000 Canadians live with young onset dementia, a number expected to nearly double in the next decade (and a similar number to those living with HIV/AIDS). When it comes to programming, however, they tend to lumped in with seniors with dementia, something that doesn’t meet their needs.
William Marchand, a Recreation and Leisure student in Therapeutic Recreation with a Minor in Gerontology, found his way to tackling this problem when he returned to school in his late 20s. Both of his grandmothers had been diagnosed with dementia and received an approach to care that suggested there was little that could be done (new studies show that early therapeutic interventions have the potential to slow, or even reverse the illness, in some cases).
In a practicum, William saw an even greater gap in therapeutic programming for those with young onset dementia — people who wanted greater ownership and involvement in their environment, as well as age-appropriate peers.
William joined St. Paul’s GreenHouse in Summer 2016 and is now doing a second term. He is looking forward to organizing three pilot programs as part of his Together Strong program, which seeks to empower individuals with young onset dementia through roundtable discussions with people living with the disease, their care partners and community partners, and therapeutic and recreational programming that supports their needs.
William had wondered about learning and living with students who are a decade younger than him, but has been pleasantly surprised. He has appreciated the diverse population in GreenHouse and says,
“I’ve been blown away by the innovative ideas and professionalism of GreenHouse students. I’ve learned so many practical skills that will help me in my venture and beyond.”