Vernon walk for Alzheimer’s honours local couple

It’s estimated that one in three Canadians know someone who is living with dementia.

When people living with dementia are first diagnosed, they often feel their peers pulling away which often adds to the isolation they may already be feeling.

When Colleen and Gord French began their dementia journey together a year and a half ago, they experienced the opposite.

Their friends reached out.

French said the couple has adapted to the changes in their lives since his wife was diagnosed with dementia by keeping connected to their social network and making new connections through the Alzheimer Society of B.C. They attend Minds in Motion, the Society’s fitness and social program. He also attends a caregiver support group.

“It’s working out because I’m learning to do things that I’ve never done before,” he said.

Erik Olesen, said those programs and more are supported largely through funds raised at events like the Investors Group Walk for Alzheimer’s, which takes place at 11:30 a.m. at the Greater Vernon Athletic Park at Okanagan College on May 6.

The Walk, according to Olesen, who is the Vernon event’s volunteer chair, is intended to send a message of inclusion and hope to the estimated 70,000 British Columbians currently living with dementia, and the people who care for them.

Each of the 23 Alzheimer’s events taking place across B.C. this month is dedicated to an honouree — an individual or group affected by dementia, or who has contributed to the lives of people living with the disease. This year the Vernon Walk honours Colleen and Gord.

Participants are also encouraged to walk in honour or memory of someone in their lives who have faced dementia. One powerful way to do this is as a team.

Carly Gronlund, Support and Education Coordinator at the Society’s North and Central Okanagan Resource Centre, echoed French, adding that staying social is a key part of living with dementia.

Typically, people connect to First Link dementia support is through a referral from a health-care provider. She said individuals and families in Vernon can visit the local Regional Resource Centre or call the First Link Dementia Helpline (1-800-936-6033) at any point in the dementia journey.

The Investors Group Walk for Alzheimer’s is set for Sunday, May 6 at the Greater Vernon Athletic Park at Okanagan College. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. with the walk starting at 12:30. To learn more, visit walkforalzheimers.ca.

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