Becoming a Dementia friendly community

Opinion: Columns

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By Marc Blesoff

No matter what your chronological age, this is the moment to join this next step — invite your friends, buy your tickets and participate in changing our aging!

www.oakpark.com/changingaging

 

Last month, I attended a meeting about dementia-friendly communities hosted by the Concordia Center for Gerontology in River Forest. The location was appropriate because of unfolding local efforts to make River Forest part of Dementia Friendly Illinois (DFI).

Under the leadership of River Forest President Cathy Adduci, the village is engaged in a process to become recognized by DFI. This process includes encouraging citizen involvement, educating village bureaucracy, and implementing village services. Both the police chief and the fire chief were present to outline specific training and program developments as part of creating a Dementia Friendly River Forest.

Dr. Raj Shah, director of the Rush Hospital Alzheimer's Clinic, presented information about the DFI program, as part of Dementia Friendly America (DFA). Dr. Shah spoke about his clinic's impressive research, as well as the human face of dementia. He spoke of DFA's efforts to create a more civil society for all of us and how respecting dementia patients and their families and caregivers actually helps all of us.

Today, there are approximately 220,000 people in Illinois with some form of dementia, a number expected to rise to 260,000 by 2025. But dementia affects families and friends of patients as well, with upwards of 500,000 people impacted in Illinois.

The second half of the meeting addressed the heartfelt, human experiences of dementia patients and their families by way of two panels. The first panel consisted of Carla Sloan, River Forest Township Supervisor; Helen Kwan, health care lobbyist/advocate and a River Forest resident; Dr. Shah; and President Adduci.

The second panel was composed of four dementia caregivers who spoke eloquently of their own experiences caring for family members. One of these four was my friend Doug Wyman, who shared some of his spiritual journey caring for his wife Barbara, who died in hospice care two weeks ago. Our condolences, Doug.

Kudos to the leadership of River Forest for being a role model in the burgeoning Age Friendly Movement. Because of unprecedented longevity in our species, we are all pioneers in this uncharted terrain, feeling our way as we go, one step at a time. 

Disrupt Dementia, Oct. 10

Another one of these steps happens next Wednesday, Oct. 10, at Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC, in Oak Park, when The ChangingAging Tour hits town. You have one week to get your tickets. You've heard about it by now, especially if you read this column. No dry speeches — rather music, poetry, theater, drama, all entertaining us and challenging us to re-frame aging. www.oakpark.com/changingaging.

Disrupt Dementia, the afternoon program starting at 2:30 p.m., is a perfect follow-up to the recent Dementia Friendly River Forest meeting. The 7 p.m. evening event is titled, "Life's Most Dangerous Game." And in between is the not-to-be-missed Lobby Experience, from 4 to 7 p.m., including music, singing and yoga provided by our community neighbors. 

Make it a day/night experience, and take advantage of our nearby local restaurant discount specials!

I've been touting, here in this column and all around town, how the ChangingAging Tour is built for the Oak Park/River Forest area. But is the Oak Park/River Forest area built for the tour? Will you take advantage of this opportunity? No matter what your chronological age, this is the moment to join this next step – invite your friends, buy your tickets and participate in changing our aging!

Marc Blesoff is a former Oak Park village trustee, co-founder of the Windmills softball organization, co-creator of Sunday Night Dinner, a retired criminal defense attorney, and a novice beekeeper. He currently facilitates Conscious Aging Workshops and Wise Aging Workshops in the Chicago area.

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