Ryan Ainsworth - Honorary Family

York Region

Musician Ryan Ainsworth is a familiar face at the Aurora and Thornhill DAY programs. Prior to COVID-19, he would perform at the Aurora and Thornhill DAY programs bringing music and joy to clients living with dementia. Ainsworth is this year's IG Wealth Management's Honorary Family. #IGWalkforAlz

Three images of Ryan Ainsworth, this year's Honorary Family for the IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer's

Clockwise starting from left: Ryan Ainsworth is this year's Honorary Family. Ryan, right, with Manny Degrandis, at a in-person IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer's. Ryan poses with his wife Rebecca Fillion and their daughter Alanna. Prior to COVID-19, Ryan would perform twice a week at the Aurora and Thornhill DAY programs. 

What Keswick resident Ryan Ainsworth misses most about performing for clients at the Alzheimer Society of York Region’s (AS York) DAY program is watching first-hand how music brings people together.

“It’s a way of communicating without language,” said Ainsworth, who performed twice a week at the Aurora and Thornhill DAY programs for 10 years prior to COVID-19. During COVID-19, Ainsworth recorded music, which was used for the virtual DAY program.

AS York provides DAY programming for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in Stouffville, Thornhill and Aurora. The programming enriches the lives of people living with the fatal disease while providing much-needed respite for their caregivers. The virtual DAY program is compilation of activities, music and exercise based on a theme emailed to clients. AS York is currently offering both in-person and virtual programming.  

Ainsworth, who performs solo as well as part of the duo Ainsworth/Degrandis with Manny Degrandis, said he also misses the social aspect of performing in person at the DAY program.

“Getting to chat with people is really nice. I really miss seeing the clients, and the staff who still work there.”

Ainsworth, who plays the guitar and harmonica and sings, said when he went to the DAY program, he would sit among the clients, drink coffee and chat while staff set up. Once everyone was seated, he would start playing something easy and recognizable.

“I can’t tell you how many times I have sung, You Are My Sunshine,” he said with a laugh.

Ainsworth would then move on to other songs, taking client requests for Elvis Presley music and other classics. One client in Aurora often requested Edelweiss, a song from the Sound of Music.

“As we are seeing people being diagnosed earlier - there a lot of people not much older than me - I sometimes play songs that I grew up listening to. One person asked me to play a Tragically Hip song. At a long-term care home, a woman once said ‘Play me some metal’.”

While Ainsworth sings, clients shout out requests, clap, sing along, play hand-held instruments and dance.

“Folks love to get up and dance,” he said.

Staff, who Ainsworth said are amazing, encourage clients to participate, helping them up and leading them on the dance floor.

“The DAY program is a place where people living with dementia can go and do things they enjoy,” Ainsworth said. “Their caregivers can also get a break.”

Ainsworth grew up around older adults. His mom worked in a long-term care home and Ainsworth spend many hours within its walls. He enjoys sitting and chatting with people in the DAY program, fondly remembering one client, who turned out to be a neighbour. The man thought Ainsworth was his brother.

“I would sit and just listen. He just wanted to chat.”

While Ainsworth grew up around older people, he didn’t start performing for them until he started working at AS York. He heard about the job through a former staff member as well as a fellow musician who asked Ainsworth to fill in for her.

Ainsworth said he was nervous at first, but staff were patient and clients made it interesting - people are quick to offer compliments as well as complaints.

“It definitely can be a very emotional job,” said Ainsworth about the clients who come and go as their disease progresses. But, he said, “you are contributing to the care of people,” which makes it worthwhile.

He also said he loves the skills he learned from the job including “just learning not to take yourself too seriously. Just be yourself and people will participate.” Music, he said, is universal.

Ainsworth grew up in a family who loved music. He had two older sisters who had “great taste in music, everything from ‘60s rock to ‘90s grunge.”

Music was always playing in the house and while everyone “has a deep appreciation for music,” Ainsworth is the only musician in the family. He took music and vocal lessons and performs a variety of music, including writing and playing original pieces. Southern and Northern rock are his favourites.

For five years, Ainsworth and Degrandis performed at the in-person IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s in Georgina and Richmond Hill, where they encouraged people to sing along and dance. Clients who came out to the walk would recognize Ainsworth and join him on stage.

“Music connects us,” Ainsworth said.

Ainsworth is again participating in the virtual #IGWalkforAlz, raising money in support of programs and services for York Region residents impacted by dementia including DAY programs, support groups and more.

Visit https://bit.ly/RyanAinsworth2022 to donate to Ainsworth’s walk.

Visit http://www.alzgiving.ca/asyork to register as an individual or as a team. Walk 17,000 steps, one step for each York Region resident living with dementia, or do the walk your way throughout the month of May. Take pictures and share on social media using the hashtag #IGWalkforAlz. Please email pictures and information about your walk to [email protected] to be used on social media and other promotional materials.

Ainsworth, his wife Rebecca and their daughter Alanna will be walking for AS York clients as well as Muriel Fillion, Rebecca’s grandmother living with dementia. Fillion was always close to her grandmother, who has been living with the disease for years. Muriel was cared for by her family at home, until she had to move to long-term care.

Ainsworth said participating in the IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s and raising funds for programs and services is important.

“Most of us know family and friends who are currently affected or perhaps will someday be affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. I have seen the positive affects the DAY program has on both the participants and their families. The Alzheimer Society of York Region also does important work through outreach programs and education.

“With the help of AS York, people living with dementia can continue living at home for many years.”


Musician Ryan Ainsworth and his family, Rebecca and Alanna, are this year's Honorary Family. Ainsworth plays at the Aurora and Thornhill DAY programs. Donate to Ryan's walk.

Register for the IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer's.

Register - IG Walk for Alzheimer's 2022

Registration is now open for the virtual IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer's. This May, walk 17,000 steps - one step for every York Region resident impacted by dementia. Raise funds to support programs and services for people impacted by this fatal disease.

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Six photos of the 2021 participants of the IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzhiemer's.

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