They may not have a canoe, paddles, or even a river, but that hasn’t stopped Tłı̨chǫ Elders at the Jı̀mı̀ Erasmus Ǫ̀hdaa K’èhodı̀l Kǫ̀ (Jimmy Erasmus Senior Home) in Behchokǫ from going canoeing.

The setting has changed – they now sit together inside the home – but they are still able to replicate on-the-land activities in an exercise program called Tłı̨chǫ Camp Yoga.

Laurel Irving, the home’s continuing care manager, has been running the program with her colleagues over the past year.

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“We took a basic yoga program and we thought, well, let’s think of some things that have to do with everyday life for Tłı̨chǫ people that maybe we could include in our exercise program,” she said in a video released by the NWT Recreation and Parks Association.

While it took some trial and error, Irving and her colleagues came up with a list of tasks familiar to Elders from their time at camp, such as fishing, checking nets, and picking berries.

“[Camp Yoga] helps stretch and strengthen muscles,” explained Daniel Gunn, a clinical care coordinator.

He said while some Elders were hesitant at first as they had never tried or heard of yoga, now some of them lead the program, which runs a few times each week among a range of exercise activities.

“We are noticing some of Elders with dementia are really enjoying it because they are able to participate; because they remember, back in the day, all of these activities,” Gunn added, saying facilitators try to incorporate as much of the Tłı̨chǫ language as possible into the program.

People living with dementia often have the clearest recollections of memories formed in childhood, Gunn said.

The activities encourage Elders to stretch and smile, explains Irving in the video, as well as improve their sleep and appetite.

“But most importantly, I think it brings joy in their life just because it’s so much fun,” she said.