When women stand together, things happen.
This is the case at the Wellington Dufferin Women’s Association since it first started last fall.
On Wednesday, about 80 women gathered at GoodLot Farm & Farmstead Brewing Co. in Alton for the Alzheimer and Dementia Speakers Panel, which offered a specific focus on ‘resources for the caregiver.’
“This need developed as more women within our association started dealing with aging parents and partners,” said group director Sarah Majeski.
“I understand two things to be true. One is that women are more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer and dementia related issues, compared with men, and second, women are more likely to assume a caregiver role.”
The event and fundraiser featured three established innovators in the field of Alzheimer’s and dementia; Ron Beleno, an active member, advisor, and mentor to numerous organizations such as AGE-WELL NCE and the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation at Baycrest, Rebekah Churchyard, the president and founder of the first publicly funded Greencare farm in Canada, a program specifically geared toward Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, and Katie Muirhead from the Ontario Care Givers Association.
“For many, you are a caregiver before you even know you are a caregiver. It’s about knowing how to look after our loved ones, so you know what to do and who to turn to,” Majeski said.
"It’s about being aware of the resources available, so you can feel like you have a handle on the system.”
The Dufferin Alzheimer’s Association was also on hand at the event along with AGE-WELL which had a table for people to review some of the recent available approaches.
“My intention was to show the more readily available resources in our local area, knowing what’s out there, and to be able to bring innovative solutions and accessibility to caregivers supporting loved ones with dementia in rural communities,” Majeski said.
The Wellington Dufferin Women’s Association meets regularly engaging in outings and events, whether it’s a bus trip to a vintage clothing show in Toronto or supporting charitable events in the community.
Since October, the group has seen significant growth with almost 300 members.
“It’s really exciting. I feel like people are starting to recognize that we are gaining traction in the community, as people working towards community development,” Majeski said.
This is the second women’s centred project for Majeski.
Living on a farm in Erin, Majeski began the Collective, where she invited women to join her last summer. She discovered that not only did the group work well together by doing farm chores and growing healthy food, but they also bonded and made strong connections while trying to achieve the same goals.
The intention for both projects, Majeski says, is to provide a safe space where women can be together.
It all began last year on Halloween, when Makeski put out an open invite to the community on Facebook asking people to join her as she was going to dress up as a witch and walk through downtown Erin.
About 70 women showed up that night.
Since then, the Wellington Dufferin Women’s Association has grown in membership. In March, it became a not-for-profit organization.
Jessa Patterson has been a member of the association from the very start.
“Its deeply meaningful for me. It’s very special. This community has just shown strength in numbers and everyone has a passion to help one another. And ultimately, it’s just so great to surround yourself with such strong-minded women who want to make a change within their own community,” Patterson said.
“I’m really honoured to be a part of it.”
Patterson says she is blown away by how quickly the group is expanding.
“We pour our hearts into it. I’ve always volunteered, and this is something that I really close to my heart. It’s great to see everyone here and it's so enlightening to see how closely people are affected. It’s a great thing to have a speakers panel where people can learn, but also where they can come to have a fun time,” Patterson said.
“I’m hoping we can continue to do things like this. We are really proud of it. We are leading with our hearts, and I hope that continues to show.”
The Alzheimer and Dementia Speakers Panel is Part 1 of a ‘women’s specific’ health series.
“We brought the researchers here, people who have a lot to offer,” Majeski said.
“I wanted to bring something new here. There are lots of resources out there, and people just need to be made aware of them.”
Majeski says the next speakers panel will be called the 'Red Event', specific to women’s hormones, menopause, perimenopause, and fertility.
“This all started because of someone talking about their struggles with perimenopause. It can difficult to talk about. What happens when you get menopause? What about those with endometriosis?” Majeski said.
Majeski says it's important to be able to talk about such issues, to share and understand each other, so women won’t feel shameful.
'That’s what its about, building a community where there is trust and the ability to find commonality and common ground,” Majeski said.
“There’s a subtle magic that happens between women when they pass the baton, and everyone helps out. If you are looking for connection, this is where you can find it.”