Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Summer House at Claremont Manor Residents Participate in Memories in the Making Art Show

Jeanne Stratford and Lois Boettcher display original work at exhibit in Santa Monica

Jeanne Stratford and Lois Boettcher, residents at Summer House at Claremont Manor, were among more than 200 artists to display their work at the annual Memories in the Making exhibit and auction this summer in Santa Monica.

“Only 25 pieces are chosen from more than 200 submitted,” said Terralyn Hamlin, life enrichment director at Claremont Manor, who submitted the art on behalf of Jeanne and Lois. “We have some amazing artists here which is evidenced by them being chosen for this exhibit.”

Jeanne Stratford (left) and Lois Boettcher. 
Memories in the Making is a unique fine arts program for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias that offers a creative and non-verbal way of communicating and capturing precious moments through art.

Those with no art background can create art to regain the ability to communicate while boosting self-esteem and opening the channels of communication and connections with families, professional caregivers, and others.

Each year, Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles hosts a gallery exhibition and auction of the artwork created by artists of contracted Memories in the Making sites. It provides an opportunity for families to enjoy the art and raises funds for programs and services.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, Memories in the Making is one of the Association’s unique “arts4ALZ” programs. It helps provide insight into the thoughts and memories that participants are often challenged in communicating. It is made possible through support of Susan Disney Lord, Abigail Disney, Tim Disney, and Roy P. Disney in honor of their mother, Patricia Disney.

 © Front Porch Communities and Services 2017


Friday, August 25, 2017

Summer House Residents Join in Harmony

Joyful Hearts chorus uplifts participants

Tomoko has memory challenges. For the past year, she has lived at Summer House at Villa Gardens, the memory care community in Pasadena. Although Tomoko sometimes struggles to recognize family members and recent events, she can recall all the words to Amazing Grace, America the Beautiful and other favorite songs. And for her longtime friend, Esther, singing together offers a powerful point of connection for the two of them to share.

“It was important for me to join her in the chorus as her buddy,” Esther said. “I can see a difference in her mood when she comes here to sing.”

Twice a week, Tomoko, Esther and about 20 residents living at Summer House at Villa Gardens and Villa Gardens Health Center, many with memory challenges, rehearse side by side with their “buddies” in the Joyful Hearts chorus. 

“Now is the time for the magic to begin,” exclaims Sheen Sanchez, a professional choir director with experience working with people
diagnosed with memory impairment. As Sheen raises his arms and his accompanist begins tapping the piano keys, suddenly residents who entered the room having difficulty holding a thought or stringing even a few words together, sing tunes ranging from patriotic favorites, holiday classics and American standards.

"We know that music is stored in a part of the brain that's last affected by memory illnesses," says Lucy Jones, Summer House manager at Villa Gardens. “It’s our way of increasing fun and engagement through music and the social experience.”

Volunteer ‘buddies’ play a key role in socialization and singing support for the residents. ‘Buddies’ include fellow residents, community volunteers and/or family members who also participate.

“Music makes the heart come alive,” Sheen said. “Residents are responding with enthusiasm. We choose well-known songs from an era the majority remember. That makes it easy for singers to participate.” 

Many studies show involvement in participatory arts programs have a positive effect on mental health, physical health, and social functioning in older adults, regardless of their ability. Musical aptitude and appreciation are two of the last remaining cognitive abilities that are found with musical memory shown to survive relatively well. As such, music is increasingly being lauded as one of the best ways to move beyond the disease and reach the person at all stages of dementia – providing an important channel of communication when others are challenged.

“Our goal is not perfection,” said Bonnie Stover, director of volunteer services for Front Porch, who helped organize the Joyful Hearts. “We emphasize the joy found in the process of weekly participation in the rehearsals and the socialization that goes along with it. We have provided professional training and support for our volunteer buddies as well as staff assistance at all rehearsals.”

“It’s been a positive experience,” said volunteer buddy Mark Jolley.
“I’m happy to be here to support (Summer House resident) Roy.”

Rehearsals will continue through the summer and fall. Sheen plans to merge the Joyful Hearts with a youth choir, Los Angeles Young Ambassadors, which he instructs, culminating in intergenerational community performances in August and in December.

Joyful Hearts is a collaboration among Summer House at Villa Gardens, Villa Gardens Health Center, FACT Foundation, California Lutheran Homes and Community Services and Front Porch Volunteer Services.

© Front Porch Communities and Services 2017


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Greetings from the Alexa Club!

Carlsbad By The Sea Resident Takes "Alexa" for a Test Run

By Corinne Sawyer, resident at Carlsbad By The Sea

Enthusiasts were delighted that so many people (perhaps 40-50) attended the first meeting of the Carlsbad By The Sea Alexa Club last week.

Using the Amazon Echo or Dot technologies has proved great fun and an enormous convenience for many of us, and sharing the latest “trick” we’ve discovered with our own use of “Alexa” has become a daily pleasure. We act like proud parents showing off our kids … or the owners of especially cute dogs … who revel in the admiration of others. Speaking personally, I haven’t had this much fun with a “gadget” in years and years, not to mention that I find it useful. And Jessica Yoon (a member of Front Porch’s Center for Innovation and Wellbeing, who shepherds the Alexa trials here) finds us new “skills” to try all the time … i.e., new things Alexa can do.  

How is it useful, the uninitiated may ask? Well, I don’t have to find a clock (and be sure it’s got the right time and hasn’t run out of batteries!) — I just ask Alexa the time. I figure out what to pull out of the closet to wear, and whether to put on extra sun block during my walk by asking Alexa for a weather report the night before. I get a “flash news briefing” from my favorite station (she gives you your choice — CNN, Fox, CBS, PBS. and even the BBC, if you prefer your news with a high-toned accent.) I am now letting Alexa keep my personal appointment calendar to back up my written notes (which I too often mislay).

I’m happily part of a small test group using Alexa to set our thermostats — all without moving from my easy chair, mind you — and turn on (or off) a night light at the far end of the living room, just by voice command. I set alarms and timers on Alexa — just in case I doze off over the novel I’m reading. I don’t want to miss the time for my bridge game, do I? Nor leave the laundry in the dryer to get re-wrinkled because I nodded off and didn’t get it out in time. Alexa doesn’t nap and she wakes me in time to get the wash-and-wears out and onto hangers (Now if only I could train her to do that part too).

She plays my favorite music on request ... though a secondary speaker would enhance the sound the Dot can deliver. (Echo is better than the Dot on sound, and the new Show is best of all, with twin Dolby speakers ... but that’s a subject for another day.)

Most fun of all was setting up Alexa-to-Alexa messaging with two friends who also have started using this magical device. Alexa’s usual bright blue signal ring (when she has an alarm for me) shows bright greenish-yellow, and a bell rings ... and one of my friends has left me a message. Yes, we could wait ‘till we saw each other in the lobby. Yes, we could use the telephone. But there’s something so personal and private AND FUN about using Alexa. I haven’t had this much fun since we were kids and strung a wire between two tin cans and played “telephone.”

If you’re a “hold out” who says, “Who needs this complication? I do fine without it,” well yes, you do — thanks to all the help and services Carlsbad By The Sea offers us. True. But once you have accustomed yourself to saying “Alexa ... good morning” and had her cheerfully announce “Good morning. Did you know this is National Shark Week? Ask me to tell you a shark joke.” You’ll be hooked. And you’ll love it. Ask John Sanders or Chris Craig-Jones to set you up and get you started. There are Dots available through the Alexa Club. As the ad used to say “Try it ... you’ll like it.” Guaranteed.

The Amazon Alexa, a voice-activated personal assistant, has commanded the attention and excitement of consumers since its release. In collaboration with residents and staff at Carlsbad by the Sea, a Front Porch retirement community, the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing launched a pilot to explore the potential use case scenarios of this emerging innovation.

To learn more check out MIT Technology Review's recent article The Octogenarians who love Amazon's Alexa, or read our impact story on FPCIW.org.