College Park Retirement Blog

We never grow too old to laugh, or to savor life’s little moments. The way we respond to stimuli may change through the years, but it’s always possible to find joy in the present moment. That’s why a good senior living community focuses, not only on physical health and wellness, but quality of life, too. Like author Phillip Pullman said, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

That’s why many retirement communities are starting to incorporate storytelling as a way to engage seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Instead of focusing on the stress of recalling facts and details that might be just out of reach, storytelling is a more expansive process that embraces the imagination. That creates an easy way for seniors to share their thoughts, feelings, sense of humor, and even distant associations, without as much pressure to fulfill expectations, social roles, and keep track of shifting memories.

One of the major benefits of assisted living is the opportunity to socialize, communicate, and avoiding the isolation and loneliness that can limit seniors quality of life. Storytelling is a great way to include memory care patients in the community and help them avoid becoming withdrawn from the stress of word acquisition and recalling names, dates, or other details.

Indianapolis dementia care activitiesThe process works like this: a trained professional, or even just an enthusiastic caregiver, can show individuals or groups pictures of people, animals, or different situations. Participants can then be invited to imagine a world around each image. What are the people in the pictures are doing? What their lives are like? A man in a business suit, for example, might be imagined to be on his way to work. Or residents might picture him on a top secret spy mission. Or headed home to his family. The possibilities are endless—as diverse as the seniors participating in the exercise.

Participants might not be able to tell you the name of their former coworkers, but they may remember how they felt about their business partner and ascribe that to the man in the photo, for example, or give him some of the same characteristics. Talking through those possibilities provides a great topic of discussion that is not only a cognitive workout, but keeps residents grounded in the present moment.

Similar storytelling exercises can incorporate music or even dance—anything that uses seniors’ natural creativity to share what they’re thinking and feeling with their friends and loved one. You could try painting or drawing what a song makes you see or feel. Or take a trip to a local museum and talk about what the people in the portraits on display are thinking about, while they were being painted. There are so many different possibilities, and such simple activities can have a surprisingly big impact on retirement home residents’ sense of agency and joy.

Written by: Meghan O’Dea

Published in Memory Care
Monday, 29 April 2013 11:59

You Can Get Smarter As You Age

Richard Restak, author of Think Smart: A Neuroscientist's Prescription for Improving Your Brain's Performance explained that aging and memory loss do not have to go hand in hand. In fact, according to Restak, “as we get older, we can still get smarter.” How you accomplish this is a matter of approaching memory as a skill you can develop with practice, or a health condition you can maintain with the right balance of self-care. Here are our top tips for maintaining your memory:

  • happy Senior couple using tablet pcMake self care a priority. That means embracing stress-reducing treatments like yoga, meditation, or massage. Don’t think of it as indulgence, but as therapies to help you function physically, emotionally, and mentally at your best. The less stress, the more mental energy to have to dedicate to things like taking in your surroundings, living fully in the present moment, and remembering the world around you.
  • Make exercise part of your routine. Some level and type of physical activity every day will improve your overall health, physical AND mental. Not only will exercise reduce stress and flood your body with positive chemicals like endorphins, it will increase the rate at which your body circulates oxygen and nutrients, including through your brain. A little effort goes a long way.
  • Make room for your social life. There’s no end to the benefits of an active social life, even for introverts. People introduce you to new ideas, situations, activities, and events. They give you someone to talk to and make new memories with. The pleasure of companionship can also reduce stress. The more you engage with the world around you, the better your memory function will be. Isn’t it better to engage with a friend?
  • Make time to for learning. Think about how much toddlers learn each and every day, at the exact same time their brains are physically growing and developing at an unprecedented rate. Learning gives our brains a reason to grow new connections and increase electrical activity, which is wonderful at any age. Give your brain a reason to grow and stay strong by picking up a new hobby, learning a new skill like a musical instrument or crafts, reading new books, or taking classes at your local college.
  • Make something new every day. Whether it’s taking different streets on your way to your grand children’s house, working on a painting, trying a new recipe, gardening, or meeting new friends, make something new and exciting happen every day. While routines can help you remember things, new experiences give your mind the exercise and stimulation it needs to stay healthy and strong.

You have a wonderful opportunity in your seniors years—the time for new pursuits and explorations, and the chance to take on new challenges. These opportunities are wonderful not only for enjoying yourself, but also for preserving your memory function and even improving it. Try one or all of these suggestions today to make the most of each day.

Written by Meghan O'Dea

Published in Memory Care
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 11:35

Managing Memory Care During the Holiday Season

Indianapolis memory care communitiesThe holidays can be a wonderful time to enjoy a special season with loved ones, but they can also highlight when an older loved one is struggling with memory or everyday tasks.  Winter can be especially hard on those coping with memory loss or other health issues. To help make the season merry and bright, we have a few tips for helping you senior have a wonderful holiday.

Especially if you loved one will be staying with you for a visit, plan ahead to accommodate any mobility limitations or health needs they might have. Adjust furniture placement or remove slippery rugs, for example, to prevent sudden accidents or trouble moving wheelchairs, walkers, and oxygen canisters about, or simply to help your senior have the greatest ease of movement.

Many seniors, especially those with memory challenges, need something to look forward to. Although the freedom and leisure of retirement sounds wonderful to those who are still working, it can be overwhelming for some elderly people. Make sure there are several small activities woven into your holiday celebrations that your loved one can help with, such as making dinner, or an outing to see the Christmas lights in a nearby neighborhood. Bring these up ahead of time so your loved one can have the fun of anticipation.

Make sure to build in a mix of quality time and boisterous family time throughout your celebrations, so your loved one doesn’t feel lonely but also doesn’t get too stressed out. Try to anticipate when they will tire or need time to rest, and schedule some special time just the two of you. That’s one of the best holiday gifts you can give—a real sense of connection and attention that can keep depression and stress at bay.

By planning ahead before the holidays are in full swing, you can make you’re your elderly loved one has the best possible time, and help him or her stay healthy and happy. Especially if you are concerned about your senior’s mental health, this is a great time to monitor his or her behavior and consider if they might need a greater level of care, such as joining a retirement community, or going to the next level of service such as assisted living or memory care. This, too, is a wonderful gift to give someone you care about.

Written by Meghan O'Dea

Published in Active Senior Living

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