Cultivating a dementia friendly Pennsylvania

Secretary of Aging Robert Torres (far right) with Anneliese Perry, Nancy Becker, Gene Becker, Jennifer Holcomb, Sam Jarvis, and Stacie Bonenberger.

On November 6, 2019, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging held the annual Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorder Forum in Harrisburg. Over 100 attendees joined from across the Commonwealth to cultivate a Dementia Friendly Pennsylvania. Governor Tom Wolf kicked off the day commending the important work happening in the state around dementia. Secretary of Aging Robert Torres created a sense of urgency—his statistics show that more than 400,000 Pennsylvanians living with dementia are supported by more than 900,000 care partners. He encouraged all to do their part and shared his own certificate of participation in a Dementia Friends training.

The keynote speaker for the Forum was the National Association of Area Agencies of Aging's (n4a) CEO, Sandy Markwood, who is also the Co-Chair of Dementia Friendly America. Sandy noted that approximately 80% of people living with dementia are living in the community and one in five are living alone, facts that underscored the importance of dementia friendly communities to support people who are living with or will be impacted by dementia. Markwood challenged everyone to help individuals living with dementia to live well in their communities.

Following the keynote, attendees were treated to a powerful panel featuring a person living with dementia and his care partner wife. Other panelists included a high school student who helps administer a Music and Memory program, the York/Adams County Dementia Friendly community leader, and Dementia Friends Pennsylvania statewide coordinators Anneliese Perry and Stacie Bonenberger, both Senior Quality Improvement Specialists at JHF.

In the afternoon session, Perry and Bonenberger joined Markwood to lead an interactive workshop focused on launching a dementia friendly effort in their own communities. Pennsylvania's Alzheimer's State Plan Task Force, of which Bonenberger is a member, plans to circulate lessons learned to bring dementia friendly efforts to regions across the state. 

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