When Margaret had her first sciatica attack in February 2022, she could no longer use her left leg. Overwhelmed by pain and fear, Margaret was unsure where to turn for support—until a friend recommended the BC Brain Wellness Program.
Part of UBC’s Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, the BC Brain Wellness Program brings lifestyle and wellness classes to those living with chronic brain conditions and their care partners. The program is also focused on prevention—a major gap in our healthcare system—by supporting people who are aging without chronic conditions to live a healthy lifestyle and to engage in activities that promote brain health. The program is free to all participants and is run entirely on donations.
“We founded this program because there’s a lack of services that promote self-driven ways for people to improve their wellbeing, particularly for those with chronic brain conditions and healthy agers,” says neurologist Dr. Silke Cresswell, Cofounder and Director of the BC Brain Wellness Program and UBC Associate Professor.
“Our program aims to be as accessible as possible, and one major barrier we’ve managed to avoid is cost, which has only been possible thanks to generous support from donors through initiatives like Giving Day.”
In April last year, more than 150 people came together to raise over $50,000 on Giving Day for the BC Brain Wellness Program, funding that directly supports delivery of more than 25 classes to nearly 800 participants who access the program.
When Margaret first started taking BC Brain Wellness classes, she thought of them as a bridge—something new to try that would hopefully get her moving again. Now 75 years old, Margaret’s perspective has changed; she describes the program as “the main event” of her weekly routine. She participates in three to four classes each week, her favourites being chair yoga, mindfulness and art from the heart.
“The BC Brain Wellness Program is central to my life and is an opportunity for me to make connections that I value, and try new activities in a judgement-free space,” says Margaret. “The program has truly helped me through dark times.”
Margaret is so passionate about the Program that she joined the Participant Advisory Committee to provide input and suggestions for growth. Last Giving Day, the Committee started a group chat while watching donations come in, excitedly texting each other throughout the day as the numbers continued to rise.
“I also gave on Giving Day because I know first-hand the impact this program has on people,” says Margaret. “I spend a lot of time alone so when I show up for, let’s say, chair yoga, and the instructor welcomes me by name, I feel happy. I am connected to the outside world and that really matters to me.”