Happy New Year! With 2022 already over, now is the time to reflect on all of the growth that we, as a community, have made and all of the exciting new opportunities we have to look forward to. This past year has highlighted the importance of capturing moments worth celebrating. Now, we have crafted our New Year’s Resolutions list based on our mission to continue sparking moments of joy and creativity for seniors in the year ahead. Going into 2023, our resolutions carry a theme centered around engAGEment for seniors – including what’s in, what’s out, and what steps we can all take to help our community’s older adults make the most of the life they have to live, no matter their age or diagnosis.
Resolution #1: EngAGEment For Seniors That Honors & Celebrates Aging
What’s Out: Making “Senior Moment” Jokes
We have all, from time to time, faced small lapses in memory or judgment. Then, someone somewhere along the lines deemed this moment of forgetfulness as what is more commonly known today as a “senior moment.”
Joking about senior moments seems like poking harmless fun on the surface, but as Oakwood Creative Care’s COO, Tara Krantzman, pointed out in her call to advocacy for inclusivity:
“The stigma of aging services is real, let alone the stigma of older adults with dementia… Aging professionals across the country recognize that ‘aging isn’t sexy,’ with the aging sector negatively perceived as a challenge or crisis. As a result, aging is feared rather than celebrated and honored.”
So, keep in mind that while joking about the aging process might evoke some quick humor in the moment, it also might add another layer to the stigma that is already darkening the general public’s overall perspective of what aging is.
What’s In: Honoring & Celebrating Aging
While Alzheimer’s and other dementias may take pieces of our aging loved ones’ memories away, we should never allow it to take away from who they are. No matter what cognitive or physical challenge an older adult may be living with, it is important to honor and celebrate who that person is – mind, body, spirit, and all!
Each person with dementia is so much more than just their diagnosis. They are our community’s mothers, fathers, and friends, with creative and professional backgrounds that have shaped the world as we know it. There may be portions of their life that have faded from memory, but we each still have the power to create new moments of inspiration.
So, let’s not allow their diagnosis to be the only thing we associate them with. Instead, let us honor the seniors who raised us and built this foundation from the ground up by telling their stories and amplifying their voices.
Resolution #2: EngAGEment For Seniors That Steps Outside The Box
What’s Out: Bingo Cards & Coloring Books
Another stigma attached to seniors in the aging sector is the envisionment of tables filled with endless bingo cards and plain coloring sheets.
This year, it’s time to ditch the dobbers and crayons and look forward to something new! While memory games have been proven to help stimulate the brain and encourage memory recall for seniors with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, that does not necessarily mean we have to stick to the same-old same-old.
Instead, we can keep neurons firing and open new pathways for communication by implementing activities that are fully engaging and reflective of the world around us — activities that feel relevant and inspiring to senior members who have lived colorful and exciting lives.
For example, Oakwood Creative Care’s Engagement Specialist, Delana, invites members of the Day Club to enjoy lifelong learning with her Cognitive Engagement Class, which includes brain-powering activities like traveling around the world with virtual tours, maps, and handmade passports.
What’s In: Offering Age-Appropriate Activities
Enhancing the quality of life for seniors means looking at the whole person, who they used to be, and who they are today. We can do this by engaging and inspiring older loved ones with fun, intriguing topics and creative activities designed especially for those with declining cognitive and physical functioning.
By incorporating programs built with engagement at the forefront, we can each help the older adults in our community to regain a sense of happiness, purpose, and well-being. This includes selecting age-appropriate topics, people, and events and sharing images, stories, and songs they are familiar with.
Resolution #3: Senior EngAGEment That Brings Generations Together
What’s Out: Isolation & Seclusion
Two years later, and there is still a lot of talk going on about COVID-19. Unfortunately, the devastating impacts of the pandemic are also still lingering, including the risks of isolation combined with steep declines in mental and physical health for older adults whose immune systems are considered high risk.
Already, older adults who are facing new or progressing diagnoses may be feeling emotionally or mentally secluded from the outside world based on changes they may or may not understand. Now, topped off with physical separation from their families and loved ones, results from a 2022 study have identified a link between social isolation and shrinkage in parts of the brain critical for learning and thinking.
This finding was related to a 26% increased risk of dementia and shadowed just how detrimental the impacts of the pandemic have been when paired with increasingly large social isolations.
What’s In: Intergenerational Programs
At Oakwood, we really don’t “mind the (age) gap.” Instead, we believe in advancing opportunities that bring all age groups together in a celebration of creativity and hope.
Why? Because we know that intergenerational programming allows older adults with dementia to interact with young adults and children in a setting that promotes improved mental and emotional health with also offering a learning and engaging space for all.
In fact, according to Verywell Health, bringing together different age groups can not only strengthen communities but can also serve as a meaningful activity proven to enhance the quality of life and instill values of lifelong friendship for both children and seniors living with dementia alike.
Did You Know?
Oakwood Creative Care is bringing back the JOY in aging! We believe a diagnosis should not have to define your life. Instead, we have devoted our mission to reigniting hope for caregivers and older adults with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other age-related challenges. Click the button below to learn more about how we do this through our research-based, cutting-edge, creative care model found at each of our Day Clubs.