YORKTON -- Three Yorkton-area organizations are ready to launch programs that aim to reduce the feeling of social isolation for older adults living with dementia and their caretakers.

The five-year Interventions to Enhance Social Inclusion of Older Adults with Dementia in Saskatchewan project started in 2019 with a $3 million contribution agreement funded by the federal government’s New Horizons for Seniors program.

The project is being conducted through the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit (SPHERU), a research centre based at the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan.

"We're very interested in reaching out and making sure that the interventions that we fund actually have dimensions that actually reach out to the rural communities," said Tom McIntosh, co-director of SPHERU.

The project’s area is roughly the old Sunrise Health Region, and focuses on interventions and services in smaller towns and rural communities.

"The isolation in rural Saskatchewan is real and so to be able to go out to people's home and bring people together in those rural communities is just like such a privilege," said Jackie Washenfelder, the quality of life senior supervisor at SaskAbilities, one of the three organizations included on the project.

The U of R’s role is to serve as a backbone organization for the collective, meaning they provide the funding, help with the design of the sub-projects and evaluation.

In addition to SaskAbilities, the City of Yorkton and the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan are also a part of the collective, and they are all working together.

"The hope is that if they're coordinated and working towards a common set of goals that the overall impact is bigger," added McIntosh, and he said more organizations will be joining the project as time goes on.

The City of Yorkton’s Public Indoor Facility Audit aims to encourage facilities to be more inclusive and accessible for seniors living in the city, including those living with dementia.

The City of Yorkton will hire an independent contractor and engage community members. An Age and Dementia-Friendly Facilities Audit Report will then be presented to each facility.

The Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan’s project will build general awareness about dementia, reduce stigma, and facilitate the involvement of local organizations, businesses and individuals in dementia-friendly community initiatives. The work by the society will be supported by a new staff position located in the region.

SaskAbilities has developed an individualized program for 15 seniors and their families to help improve the quality of life for those living with dementia and their caretakers.

"We're going to do what we can to get out there and get support however everybody is comfortable and in a safe manner, so don't be hesitant to just give a call," said Washenfelder of the new Dementia Friendly Life Enrichment Program.

Two allocated staff members will be working with individuals out in the community and in their homes, either physically or by virtual means.

The SaskAbilities program is due to start up next month.