Welcoming Spaces

Calgary is becoming a dementia-friendly city


Anew initiative is helping Calgarians living with dementia to age in place.

Launched in 2016, The Brenda Strafford Foundation’s Dementia Friendly Communities project is a two-year pilot currently taking place in Calgary’s Westhills communities and Okotoks. “The main goal is to build community capacity to support individuals to age in place and remain in their communities as long as possible,” says Navjot Virk, research and innovation practice coordinator at the Brenda Strafford Foundation. “We also want to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with dementia. We didn’t want it to be prescriptive; we very much want it to be a community grassroots initiative.” 

The project hosts an ongoing series of presentations that include information on dementia’s common symptoms and associated behaviours. Attendees — including grade seven students from Rundle College — learn what to do if they encounter someone with the signs of dementia and how to best help them. 

“With increased community awareness and understanding of dementia, citizens living with the disease are better supported in their daily lives and able to have more positive interactions as they age in place,” Virk says. 

When the project concludes, a tool kit will be published for other communities in Alberta to use so they can develop their own best practices to create a dementia-friendly community.  —S.Y.

Age-Friendly Business program

The City of Calgary’s Age-Friendly Business program is a new initiative that helps local businesses best meet the needs of an aging customer base.

“The hope is the program meets the needs of Calgarians as they age so they are better able to shop, especially at local businesses,” says Raynell McDonough, issue strategist involved with the City of Calgary’s Age-Friendly Business program.

Launched this past June, the program includes a checklist of mandatory criteria businesses need to meet in order to be recognized as age-friendly. That includes easy-to-read signage; clear, unobstructed entrances; available washrooms and non-slip flooring. There are additional non-mandatory criteria that businesses can incorporate into their spaces and are acknowledged for, including wheelchair access and seating areas. Businesses recognized as age-friendly are added to the Age-Friendly Business map on the City of Calgary website so shoppers can plan where to go.

The program is not exclusive to aging Calgarians, McDonough says. The intention is to create shopping environments that are more accessible to everyone, including pregnant woman, parents with strollers, and people with medical or mobility issues, for example. 

“This program can meet the needs of a wider customer base than just older adults,” McDonough says. “We tried to make it as inclusive as possible.”

The next step is to incorporate findings from the Dementia Friendly Communities project when it completes in 2018, McDonough says. “We want age-friendly to also mean dementia-friendly as well,” she says.  —M.B.

Visit Calgary.ca/afb to learn more about how to become a recognized age-friendly business and to view the map of existing age-friendly businesses. 

Private programs

The Glencoe Club is one of many local private businesses adapting its programs and services to be more dementia-friendly. 

The Glencoe hosts an educational series on dementia, inviting experts — researchers, medical doctors, nurse practitioners, ophthalmologists and hearing experts — to educate members and their families on the latest advances in dementia treatment. More than 40 Glencoe employees have been trained in the Best Friends Approach™ to Dementia Care.

“If we look at the stats — we have about 12,000 members, so we should have around 100 members, or possibly more that are directly experiencing dementia or dementia-like symptoms,” says Jessica Power Cyr, wellness and lifestyle director at the Glencoe Club, a private sporting club that has been in Calgary since 1931.

“Our goal is to take away the fear of judgment,” says Power Cyr. “We want the club to be a safe and welcoming environment for everyone. It’s a second home for a lot of our members.”  —S.Y. [ ] 

Dementia by the Numbers


is the number of Canadians presently living with dementia

of Canadians with dementia over the age of 65 are women

Canadians will be living with dementia in the next 15 years


new dementia cases are diagnosed every year

$10.4 billion
is spent annually by Canadians to care for people with dementia