I’m a lapsed yoga aficionado. That means I love yoga. Unfortunately, I don’t make it to class nearly as often as I’d like. As a result, I’m generally stiff, sore and stressed, all characteristics that can be drastically reduced by regular yoga. I’m working on it. The point is that one of the best parts of yoga is at the very end when you put your hands in a position of prayer and do a little bow to the yoga instructor, intoning, “Namaste.” She says it back to you with a little bow too. It’s very polite. Anyway, there are several versions of a definition of Namaste but my personal fave is this: the Divine light in me acknowledges the Divine light in you.

How lovely is that? It’s really how I try to live my life – seeing past someone’s grouchiness, outburst or full-on rudeness to seek the divine light within them. It’s not very easy but it sure keeps your blood pressure down to an acceptable level. I’m not very good at it but I try.

Stick with me on this divine light concept. I’ll come back to it.

When the CVC was approached to host a new round of Study Circles, I was all over it. The Study Circles on Poverty – Thrive vs. Survive, in 2012, were wildly successful. Over 150 people took part and of the seven initiatives that came out of those Circles, five are still going strong three years later.

A study circle, also called a community conversation, is a process for public dialogue and problem solving. The entire community is invited to spend 2 hours a week for 5 weeks in a facilitated conversation with a group of 8-12 people talking about a specific subject. You get to know the people in your circle, look at the issue from many points of view, explore possible solutions and develop ideas for action and change.

This time, we’re asking the community to participate in Study Circles around the subject of Creating a Dementia Friendly Community. Dementia is a subject with which so many people are familiar whether through their family’s experiences or those of friends or neighbors. It’s a terrifying and almost worse, isolating disease that has no cure. What it does have is a host of people who don’t understand what dementia is (and is not) and how it affects both the person who has the disease as well as those around them who are now living with dementia.

This Study Circles wants to change that. We aim to create a community where those with dementia and their care partners feel welcome, included and understood by all of us. This can look like anything from raising awareness and transforming attitudes to redesigning how stores or streets are signed and laid out. It’s like taking the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) to another level – one that is less about laws and more about inclusion for all.

Participants don’t have to sign up for Study Circles. There are seven different ones going on for two hours each week for five weeks. You can get the schedule at cvc.sheridan.edu or just call me at Sheridan College. Pick the Circle that works best for your schedule and attend and contribute your thoughts and ideas. If you’ve missed the first Circle, that’s ok! Just come to the next one and we’ll catch you up. The most important thing is that as many people as possible participate and make change happen.

The Study Circles process allows these small groups to work through a series of questions and strategies to arrive at 2-3 measurable goals or initiatives that will actually make a difference in our community for those with dementia.

When I said that dementia is an isolating disease, I mean that in the strongest sense of the word. Those living with dementia don’t leave their house, don’t feel comfortable going to a store or restaurant and certainly don’t engage in activities like bowling or golfing. Often, neither do their care partners. All because they fear being ridiculed, ostracized or shamed in public because those around them don’t understand what’s happening.

What if our community viewed those with dementia (and quite frankly, those who look different or act differently than us in any way, shape or form) the Namaste way? It rhymes too! The Divine light in us would acknowledge the Divine light in them. Simplistic? Maybe. Powerful? Profoundly.

Come to a Study Circle and help create a dementia friendly community right here right now.