The What connects us ~ Ce qui nous lie project is a collaborative partnership between community-based organizations for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, arts/cultural institutions, government, media, mental healthcare and academia, whose aim is to create an inter-connected community for all. Our mission is to bridge differences through what connects us.
To do so, we are expanding already existing arts-related activities and creating new ones in the context of COVID-19 with the support of the Public Health of Canada: Dementia Community Investment funding (we use the term “dementia” here in-line with the name of the grant fund for our project, but we’ve moved towards using the terms Alzheimer’s in response to our community partners).
Through shared activities, designed to cultivate social and cultural environments worth living in, our aims are to (1) establish an enriched web of resources; (2) link arts/culture, mental health, and academic sectors; and (3) help decrease stigma at the intersection of Alzheimer’s, mental illness, and aging.
We have partnered with the National Center for Dance Therapy to expand on existing dance activities and collaboratively design virtually accessible ones. We thus collaborate on three different projects, offering dance therapy and adapted dance sessions at different community-based organizations to explore the creative potential of dance and movement for people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
Moreover, a Moving-With project for anyone involved in the Alzheimer’s community is being developed and piloted by Keven Lee, professional dancer and occupational therapist, as part of his doctoral thesis at McGill University. The project includes the Moving-With workshops (for professional caregivers, dance therapists, other facilitators or medical professionals), Moving-With sessions (movement sessions for persons living with Alzheimer’s and personal carers, such as family members) and Moving-With open events (for everyone). These Moving-with activities are based on ideas of exploration and discovery for how one’s own body can and wants to move with others in new ways.
Through the shared creation and participation in these activities and events, we believe will help build an interconnected web of resources and improve the quality of life for persons living with Alzheimer’s and those who care for them. We are tracking the results of our partnership through surveys taken before and/or after events and stories we collect.
As we co-design emergent activities with the NCDT in 2021, we continue to adapt to our current context of COVID-19 with the help of sound and visual artists, by working through the question “How can we create connections during socially distanced conditions?".