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A while ago, I wrote about some fascinating research in The Teplitz Report that was conducted by the Langer Mindfulness Institute where they took a group of 80-year-olds and tested them for vision and hearing, grip strength, memory and dexterity before being taken to a monastery that was decorated to replicate life in 1959. The decor also included photos of the participants when they were that age.
Everyone wore 1950s fashions and entertainment was all 1950s – TV shows, movies, books and music. They were also instructed to discuss sports and events that did happen during that era, but to talk about them in the present tense. They were told to think of themselves as actually being younger.
After five days, the participants did look younger and their scores on everything, including eyesight had improved. To me, the eyesight improvement in five days was a powerful outcome.
Well, there’s a company that’s putting this research into a real-world environment that is quite exciting. The company as created a dementia daycare facility called Glenner Town Square that is a replica of small-town USA when Eisenhower was President (for Millennials that’s 1953 to 1961). This was a time when these patients were between 10 and 30 years old. They have music from the that era playing over the PA system. They are showing popular movies from the times in 15-minute clips. They have Rosie’s dinner with a 1959 Ford Thunderbird parked outside. There are pictures of famous people like Elvis, Audrey Hepburn and James Dean on the walls.
There are also 14 store fronts on the property – a library, the bar, the barbershop and even the opera house. The patients are guided in groups of 5 from one store to the next for 45 minutes. The aides play cards with them, help them paint, tell stories and even have them write inspiring messages for sick children at a nearby hospital.
What the research is showing is that reminiscence therapy can help those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of cognitive disease feel better plus it often calms their agitation. It may also bolster their cognitive ability and reduce depression. In addition, the benefits seem to extend long beyond the hours a patient spends inside the center.
The company is looking to open 100 facilities across the country, which is exciting!
So..the notion of taking a trip down memory lane now has more power to help elders in ways we’ve never thought possible. I also think it’s exciting to have the Langer Mindfulness Institute’s research put to such practical use. Now, what if someone set up a facility that was not just daycare, but the full facility was designed for the earlier time period which might improve the positive changes in the resident’s abilities even further.