Hopkinton has begun a new marathon. Not a run to Boston, but the Hopkinton Age-Friendly and Dementia-Friendly Initiative, a multi-year project to make the town a safer and more respectful and inclusive place for seniors and those living with dementia.
The initiative began last fall under the direction of Senior Services Director Amy Beck when a group of Council on Aging (COA) members and Senior Services staff were recruited along with an Action Team composed of representatives from town government and the Hopkinton Center for the Arts. Following the signing of the Hopkinton Dementia-Friendly Massachusetts Pledge in mid-February, the team is submitting an application for nationally recognized dementia-friendly certification.
But certification does not mean the work is done. Instead, as team and COA member Sam Docknevich said, the work is just beginning on this “long-term project, a marathon. We want it to be sustainable forever.”
The initiative will have an impact on Hopkinton since the senior population is projected to increase by 65 percent from 2020 to 2030, and currently about 11 percent of those over age 65 have some form of dementia. While the initiative aims to make Hopkinton more inviting for residents to age in place, it also “makes the entire community stronger and better,” said Beck.
The team currently is in the discovery phase, working to explore what Hopkinton needs to make it more supportive for the aged while raising awareness of dementia and erasing stigmas associated with the disease.
“One of the prime stigmas we are trying to break down is once you are diagnosed you have to be cloistered, you can’t enjoy activities. … It is so untrue,” said Docknevich.
Another COA and team member, Pat Srodawa, who helped establish the monthly Memory Cafe, now in its fourth year, as well as the Caregiver Support Group, said family and friends attending the cafe frequently are surprised by what the person with dementia can do. She added that those with the disease should not be defined by it; instead they are “people living with dementia.”
As the team works to build on existing services in Hopkinton, it also is trying to discover what the town still needs so it can build a long-term plan. “We want to engage the community in different ways and get much more information and feedback, to find out what we don’t know,” said Docknevich. “That is why we have this Action Team, they are conduits to other organizations … bringing back information.”
He said the team still is looking for members from the business and faith communities. Volunteers may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-259-4839, or call the Hopkinton Senior Center at 508-497-9730.
Also during the discovery phase the team is “having dementia-friendly sessions, which are basically information sessions … and push out the message that this is where we are heading and this is something we care about as a community,” said Beck.
The first two Dementia Friends Information Sessions, sponsored by the COA, will be Tuesday, April 12, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Hopkinton Center for the Arts and Wednesday, April 27, from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Senior Center. Participants will explore different types of dementia, what it feels like to live with the disease and how to make a difference. RSVP or request more information by calling the Senior Center.
LOCAL SUPPORT PROGRAMS
The following are ongoing programs aimed at helping Hopkinton residents living with dementia and their caregivers. To participate, register at 508-497-0108, 508-497-9730 or email@example.com.
Caregiver Support Group — Held in person at 10:30 a.m. on the third Thursday of the month and virtually every other Friday, this program is an opportunity for caregivers to share and learn with those facing similar challenges. To help caregivers, the Senior Center can provide care for the person living with dementia. Registration is required for this service.
Memory Cafe — Held monthly on the first Thursday of the month at 1 p.m., this welcoming gathering is for those experiencing forgetfulness or mild cognitive impairment and those living with dementia, caregivers and friends. Participants can socialize and share with those going through similar experiences. Sponsored by the Senior Center and Hopkinton Public Library, it features music, activities and more.