Blog Post: Mario Gregorio
Name: Mario Gregorio
Working group/municipality: Burnaby
Mario Gregorio resides in Burnaby, British Columbia. He lives with dementia and is an active member of his community. Each day he is out pursuing his passions and hobbies, among which include advocacy for dementia. It’s not uncommon for Mario to be rushing from one meeting to the next, navigating himself on public transportation, and finding new opportunities to get involved, whether it is through the creation of dementia-friendly communities or participation in research and health care related projects, so that he can push forward dementia awareness.
Mario has been instrumental in developing the Dementia-Friendly Communities initiative in British Columbia. He is an avid member of the Leadership Group of People Living with Dementia, which is a provincial advisory group to the B.C. initiative. The purpose of the group is to inform and hold the initiative accountable to the experiences of people living with dementia. Mario, along with other Leadership Group members, has worked on several action plans with local municipalities; the closest to home for Mario, of course, is the Burnaby Dementia-Friendly Community Action Plan.
Mario says, “To me, a dementia-friendly community is a place where people living with disabilities are treated with inclusivity and compassion. It is a community that respects the dignity and autonomy of the individual just like any other person who lives in that community.”
When the City of Burnaby reached out to partner with the Alzheimer Society of B.C. in order to becoming more dementia friendly, Mario sat on the working group and was the voice for people affected by dementia in Burnaby. He facilitated a walking tour of community facilities with city staff to highlight features within the community, both physical and social, that from his perspective were not dementia friendly and could be improved to reduce confusion, disorientation or anxiety for a person living with dementia.
“When people living with dementia are given an opportunity to voice their needs, I like to think that it is a very good start. It allows policymakers to effectively connect and serve the public, in a mutual rather than one-sided approach,” says Mario. “It allows the community to rethink their concept of delivering services by allocating resources or developing relationships that are authentic.”
As the Dementia-Friendly Communities initiative reaches the national landscape and begins to inform more Canadians, Mario’s hope is that with a little bit of dementia awareness and a lot of compassion, communities can become more dementia friendly.
“There are many people living with dementia who live in their communities for many years after they are diagnosed. They go about their everyday lives just like other members of the community. By being sensitive to their needs, it is important to focus on how we can assist to make it easier for people living with dementia to use social services and amenities, and enjoy public spaces like parks, shopping centres and transportation.”Mario, who was diagnosed with dementia 12 years ago, remains an active member of his community and speaks from experience. “It is important that people living with dementia feel safe to walk in the neighborhood with fewer distractions and with an assurance that there will be a friendly face whenever there is a challenge navigating the community.”