When young people come together with seniors, great things happen. For six months, starting in December of 2017, students from Denver’s Martin Luther King Jr. Early College visited regularly with the residents of Chelsea Place Memory Care in Aurora, Colorado. What did they do? Perhaps a better question would be, what didn’t they do? The students joined with residents to participate in painting classes, drumming circles and lots of other fun activities that encouraged interaction and brought lots of smiles. The students even made short videos, in which they interviewed the residents as they shared bits and pieces of their life stories!
This program was the result of a partnership between Chelsea Memory Care and Denver-based Bessie’s Hope, an organization that seeks to enhance the quality of life for long-term care residents by bringing generations together. Bessie’s hope has helped foster many positive experiences for both seniors and children throughout the greater Denver area. Chelsea Place is no exception.
Why do Anthem Memory Care communities, such as Chelsea Place, encourage inter-generational activities? In addition to being fun for everyone, the process of engaging with younger people is known to be beneficial for those challenged by dementia. An article in verywell.com, written by Esther Heerema, MSW, cites research studies that point to the positive impact of inter-generational activities.
For instance, they have found that when adults with dementia have opportunities to teach simple tasks to children (such as dusting, folding towels, etc.) it provides them with a heightened sense of purpose. This “sense of purpose” is key to keeping them more connected, in positive ways, to those around them. Research also shows that there are fewer behavioral issues experienced by individuals with dementia when they interact regularly with younger adults and children.
If you are caring for someone with dementia, try to seek opportunities to bring them together with young people. Make sure you keep the visits brief and that you monitor your loved one for signs that he or she is tiring and adjust accordingly. You may be surprised at how positive the reaction from both parties can be. Establishing a habit of regular visits in a calm, nurturing environment can bring long-lasting benefits.