An estimated 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Providing care for those with Alzheimer’s is a constant challenge due to the confusion and memory loss that come with the disease.
However, some forward-thinking senior care leaders and architects are looking for ways to make life more enjoyable for those living with Alzheimer’s.
The Town Square Concept
Take, for instance, the Town Square concept used at the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Center in the San Diego area. Billed as the first “immersive reminiscence therapy,” it is an area designed as a town square (hence the name) that includes objects reminiscent of life in the 1950s and 1960s. Storefronts at the Town Square include:
· Rosie’s Diner, featuring music from the 1950s
· Gone Fishin’ Pub, featuring a vintage pool table and 1950s memorabilia on the walls. Gone Fishin’ also doubles as a space for occupational and physical therapy.
· Silver Fox Barber & Beauty Shop
· Pied Piper Music Theatre, where visitors can talk about their favorite movie actors and actresses from the past and watch movies
· Joy’s Department Store, with vintage jewelry, clothing, and hats
….and much more.
Older adults with Alzheimer’s can enjoy the Town Square as part of their adult day care experience, or caregivers can bring their loved one with Alzheimer’s there for an interactive, nostalgic day.
Here’s a sample of just one typical day of activities from the Town Square calendar:
· Loteria in the Diner
· Poker in the Pub
· Visual Poetry
· Aquarium Trip to Saucy’s Pet Shop (located in Town Square)
· Gossip at Silver Fox
· “Mary Poppins” at Pied Piper Theatre
· Sitercise in the Park
Here is a two-minute video that explains more about Town Square.
Right now, the Town Square concept is used at its main location in Chula Vista, California, and in a second Baltimore area location (Perry Hall, Maryland). However, Town Square will soon be franchised to several other senior care facilities in Florida, Texas, New Jersey, and other states.
This type of reminiscence program can be therapeutic for those with dementia and memory loss, according to a Baltimore Sun article that wrote about the Town Square in Perry Hall, Maryland. The tangible objects at the Town Square can lead to discussions and memories from the past and make patients reflect on happy times. This can help to improve mood and decrease agitation, according to the article.
Reminiscence therapy is an approach now used more frequently among those experiencing memory loss, as it can help boost self-confidence, and reduce depression. Although short-term memory loss is often a problem for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, earlier memories often linger longer. Research about reminiscence therapy has shown mixed results, with researchers noting that larger clinical trials would need to be done for more solid results.
Using Reminiscence Therapy at Home
Until you can make it to a Town Square or similar themed nostalgic facility with a loved one experiencing Alzheimer’s, there are a few other ways you can encourage similar happy memories or recall:
· Play music from their teenage years or early adulthood. Even if they don’t have certain memories with the songs, the music itself may be soothing.
· Look at old photos together. Encourage your loved one to talk about the photos.
· Bake a special dessert together that’s from their childhood.
· Interview them about a fun event from their past.