Profile: 'Dementia Talks' Library Speaker Series

Community outreach events help to engage the local community, increase public awareness of both dementia and the Dementia Friendly Communities pilot project, and provide information about resources and supports.

The Brenda Strafford Foundation developed ‘Dementia Talks’ – a Library Speaker Series presented in partnership with Calgary Public Library (Signal Hill branch) and Okotoks Public Library featuring experts from the University of Calgary and other local partners as guest speakers. Talks related to areas of interest or knowledge gaps identified in collaboration with key stakeholders and community feedback. Topics included: ‘Understanding Dementia,’ ‘Risk Reduction,’ ‘Memory,’ ‘Caregiver Support,’ ‘Young Onset Dementia’ and ‘Seniors’ Safety.’ 

These Library Speaker Series events provided an invaluable opportunity to increase people’s knowledge and understanding about dementia, gather feedback and insight from the community, develop mailing lists and recruit volunteers. Community partner resource booths open before and after each session further helped to connect people to services and resources in the community.

The Signal Hill Library partnership expanded to include hosting Dementia Awareness training for the general public interested in becoming a Dementia Friendly Communities volunteer. At the Okotoks Library, branch staff were trained in dementia friendly strategies.

“The Calgary Public Library is proud to promote values of inclusion, curiosity, and collaboration and we strive to improve the quality of life for our library members. We have achieved that through this mutually beneficial partnership supporting Dementia Friendly Communities. The Brenda Strafford Foundation has been able to leverage libraries as an established ‘go to’ place for information in the community, while we have been able to provide our members with access to expert guest speakers and information on dementia-related topics that our members have clearly demonstrated a keen interest in learning more about.”

Patrick Mealey, Community Learning Advocate, Calgary Public Library

Some ‘Dementia Talks’ topics were particularly well attended, and this interest was influential in determining additional services in these areas. For instance, the Dementia Risk Reduction Talk attracted a full house in both communities, with 70 people in attendance at Okotoks, and 100 people at Signal Hill.

To build on the obvious interest in this area, the Memory and Aging Program was introduced with great success in the Okotoks pilot community. This 5-week program facilitated by Clinical Neuropsychologist, Cam Clark, PhD, aims to educate older adults on normal and abnormal age-related changes in memory, strategies for improving memory performance, and modifiable lifestyle factors that affect memory and can impact brain health in a positive way.

"This has come at a very important time as I have recently been dealing with a friend who seems to think that I am showing signs of dementia. I am learning lots just through this program. If nothing else it has been very good knowing a lot more about memory. This has been a real support and most helpful for me.”

Anonymous (from a Memory and Aging Program participant)