Alive Inside: Music + Dementia

Music & Memory is a nonprofit that provides personalized music therapy for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia:

Based on neuroscience research, Music & Memory helps set up playlists that trigger deep memories not lost to dementia, enabling patients to” feel like themselves again.” According to their website, the program consistently yields the following results in nursing home patients:

  • Residents are happier and more social.

  • Relationships among staff, residents and family deepen.

  • Everyone benefits from a calmer, more supportive social environment.

  • Staff regain valuable time previously lost to behavior management issues.

  • There is growing evidence that a personalized music program gives professionals one more tool in their effort to reduce reliance on anti-psychotic medications.

For more information, or to donate to the organization, please visit http://musicandmemory.org/.

Meet Harvey

harvey

Harvey and I meet near the activity room at his senior living community, where some residents are playing a game with visiting teens. Their game seems to involve frequent shouting and clapping, so Harvey and I have to lean in close to talk, and we often have to repeat ourselves. 

“This is a very interesting way of talking,” Harvey says. “There are a lot of activities today.”

Born and raised in San Francisco, CA, Harvey is a local celebrity. He was a semi-professional baseball player with the San Francisco Seals, a minor league baseball team that played in the Pacific Coast League until 1957. Harvey’s team has several notable alumni, including Joe DiMaggio and his 2 brothers Dominic and Vince. Harvey tells me that he wasn’t as good as those guys, but he was “pretty good.” He played several positions, including catcher. 

“I just automatically got into it,” Harvey says of playing baseball. “I didn’t consider it a possibility to do anything else.”

 Harvey played baseball all through high school, and transferred to another team after playing for the Seals. After leaving baseball, he became a basketball referee. “I enjoyed baseball, but it wasn’t something I could do all my life. It wasn’t difficult to transfer from one sport to another. I got to meet lots of people, and it was very nice.”

These days, watching sports on television is Harvey’s biggest hobby. He says, “I don’t go outside that much, but there’s a lot to do inside.” Harvey also spends time with his children and grandchildren, and he enjoys playing cards. His Gramsly box contains several snacks, since as he says he “likes to eat everything.” He also gets some handkerchiefs and a deck of cards to play with his friends.

Harvey was described to me as the perfect gentleman, and it’s a very apt label. With the help of his walker, he stands up when I get up to leave. “Thank you for spending time with me,” he says gallantly. We shake hands and agree to meet again soon.


 

This post is part of our Meet a Senior blog series, in which we showcase senior citizens and tell their stories. All of our subjects receive a customized Gramsly box as a thank you for their participation. If you know a senior (including yourself!) that wants to participate, please contact info@gramsly.com.

 

What goes in a Gramsly Box?

People often ask how we choose what goes in Gramsly boxes. Unlike other care package companies, we provide a personalized gift experience. There is no “standard” Gramsly box – we customize each one based on the intended recipient.

Why do we do this? The reasoning is simple. Gramsly believes that every senior is special. We’re all unique, and that doesn’t simply go away when we get older! We also believe that the real joy in gift giving is the thought behind the present. Our customers describe their loved ones to us, often painting a vivid picture of the gift recipient. This enables us to find just the right items to put in each box.

In this post, we thought we’d show you some recent Gramsly boxes and explain why certain items were chosen:

Gramsly Box

The first box was created for an active woman in a senior living community. She loves snacks, especially sweets. We chose several sweet snacks that are healthy, including kettle cooked apples and fruit & nut bars. We added dark chocolate and hot cocoa because they taste good, and because regular consumption is linked to health benefits for older people. This box also contains a stationery kit (complete with blank notecards, envelopes, stamps, and pens) for keeping in touch with her grandchildren.

Gramsly Box

We created the second box for a older gentlemen who spends a lot of time in medical facilities. We included warm socks, since these places are often cold, and items that help pass the time while waiting: a puzzle book and earbuds for his iPod. The gift recipient is a baseball fan, so we put in some vintage cards from one of his favorite teams. The box also contains a few snacks that are suitable for his diet.

We love learning about our customer’s loved ones and and choosing the perfect gifts for them. Every box tells a unique story that we feel privileged to share.

Every day we help people stay connected with their older loved ones. If you’d like to send a Gramsly box to someone special, please visit our website for more information.

 

Meet George

george_box

“George is really smart.”

“Oh, George is very impressive. He knows a lot.”

“When I’m George’s age, I hope I remember as much as he does.”

I learned a lot about George before I ever met him. He’s famous among the residents in his retirement community for how much he knows. The word around town is that George is very intelligent. He is also quite charming.

“I have a lot of good friends here at [the retirement home]. I get along with everybody very easily. I’m not the type of person to have arguments. I’ve always gotten along with people.”

George was born in Reading, PA. When he learns that I’m from Philadelphia, he becomes animated, telling me about the history of the town and we discuss the pagoda on the south end of Mount Penn.

“You know Reading!” he chuckles, pleased to have found a shared connection.

George left home at 17 years old to go to West Chester State Teachers College (what is now called West Chester University). He still wears his class ring.

“West Chester State was a very good school. I loved it. I was elected class president, and I was on the tennis team. I was a good player so I found it easy to balance playing tennis with my studies.” Although his mobility is restricted now, George still loves watching matches on television. “I don’t have a favorite player. Everyone that plays I like. I’m a tennis enthusiast!”

George's West Chester State College class ring.

George’s West Chester State College class ring.

George enlisted in the Army after graduation. As he puts it, “the Army got me. I was ‘invited’ to join. And while I was there, I did whatever they told me to do.” George’s unit was ready to ship overseas when World War II ended. He was stationed in Hawaii instead. “I was happy not to go to war, and happy to be in such a nice place.”

Since leaving the Army, George has had a full life. He married and had several children before eventually settling down in the community where he lives now. “[My retirement home] is very nice. People are very agreeable. I get good meals, we are very well treated. I enjoy being here very much.”

George is very interested in food. He says he likes to eat everything. “I’m not fussy.” We finish our chat just before lunch, and George is eager to find out what’s on the menu. We shake hands, and I promise to come back in a week with a Gramsly box for him.

When I do return a week later, George is dressed up. He is wearing a collared shirt, sweater vest and dress slacks. “Oh, hello!” he says when we meet again. I give him the box and we open it together. The items are gift wrapped, and he tries to guess what each present is before unwrapping. Knowing how much George likes to eat, I included lots of snacks such as popcorn, fruit & nut bars, and sugar-free candy (he’s diabetic.) There are also handkerchiefs and thick socks to keep his feet warm. George is delighted. “Oh, thank you so much! My mouth is watering. When can I eat these?” We decide together that the snacks should wait until after lunch, which is just starting.

As I help him wrap up his presents and put them away for later, George starts to cry. “Thank you so much. Oh my gosh!” I escort him to lunch where several residents and staff greet him warmly. Composed again, George shakes my hand and we say goodbye. I leave him with his friends at the lunch table, happily perusing the menu.

 


 

This post is part of our Meet a Senior blog series, in which we showcase senior citizens and tell their stories. All of our subjects receive a customized Gramsly box as a thank you for their participation. If you know a senior (including yourself!) that wants to participate, please contact info@gramsly.com.

School pairs autism students with senior citizens

A very special program allows students with autism to form unique friendships with the elderly (via the Huffington Post):

The Lionheart School provides a specialized learning environment for students, including a vocational program that brings their older students who have autism together with senior citizens in a win-win of friendship and real-world training.

What a lovely idea!

Foster Grandparenting

Have you heard about foster grandparent programs? Foster grandparents are volunteers age 55 and over who help children in their local communities:

Foster grandparents serve 15 to 40 hours per week helping children learn to read, mentor ing teenagers and young mothers, caring for premature infants or children with disabilities, or helping abused/neglected children. Volunteers receive training, meals while on duty, and may be eligible to receive a small stipend.

Know anyone who might be interested in becoming a foster grandparent? Please click on this link for more information:

http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/senior-corps/foster-grandparents

We think this is a fabulous idea!

 

Meet Aiko

 

aiko

Aiko has been a resident of a senior living community for 2 years. The first time we meet, Aiko is at the reception desk. She has stopped by to get a newspaper to read, and a nearby staff member asks her if she wanted to go to tai chi.

“I don’t like tai chi,” she says emphatically. The staff member replies, “Oh, that’s right, you don’t like tai chi.”

“That’s right. It’s TOO SLOW.” For emphasis, Aiko nods her head as she says the last two words. “I like more energy.”

It turns out Aiko prefers aikido and dancing. These activities, she says, are good because they have “some movement.”

aiko_gramsly_boxaiko_smiling

Aiko is obviously well liked. During our chat, several people walk over to say hello to her. She has the grace of a dancer, and the stage presence of a Broadway legend. In fact, Aiko is a classically trained pianist. Her music education started at home in Berkeley, CA, and continued when she and her family were relocated to a Japanese American Internment Camp during the Second World War. After graduating from the camp school, Aiko taught music to the other children.

“Camp life was hard,” Aiko says. “In the camp, you don’t have what you want to eat, and you get only so much money for the work, maybe $15 a month. But we were lucky. My mother purchased a home after we left the camp, so we had somewhere to go. Not everyone had that.”

Although she was encouraged to pursue a musical career, Aiko attended UC Berkeley to study politics. She didn’t want to be a concert pianist, she says, “I wanted to meet Mr. [Ronald] Reagan.”

These days, Aiko spends her time reading, playing the piano, visiting with her friends, and helping the staff plan activities for other residents. One of her favorite activities is working with volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – they plant gardens and do crafts together. One such craft project, a beaded dragonfly, is proudly displayed on the handle of her walking stick. In addition to the dragonfly, Aiko wears a bracelet, a turquoise ring, and her mother’s wedding ring.

aiko_jewelry

Aiko’s dragonfly craft jewelry.

“Since my sister got married, I was the only one to carry on the family name,” she says, holding out her hands. “That is why the ring came to me.”

Aiko’s jewelry catches the light as we shake hands at the end of our interview. Aiko smiles and thanks me; graciously saying it was nice to meet me. And then she’s off to her next activity for the day. I don’t quite catch what the activity is, but I’m certain it’s something with lots of movement.

I meet Aiko again a week later to deliver her Gramsly box. She greets me right away. “I remember you! We talked downstairs for a long time!” She’s wearing a smock, getting ready to do a painting. When I give her the box, she says it’s like Christmas.

“I didn’t have much of a Christmas this year, so this is nice.” The Gramsly box contains things I think she would like, based on the time we’ve spent together. Among other things, the box contains seaweed snacks, chocolates, and a scarf in her favorite color, pink. Aiko’s face lights up when she unwraps the scarf.

“How pretty! This is so pretty,” she exclaims. “I don’t have anything fancy like this because I don’t have a boyfriend.” Everyone assures her that she doesn’t need a boyfriend as a reason to look pretty. A nearby volunteer compliments Aiko on the scarf. Aiko turns to her and says, “Oh, you love it? I don’t want you to love it too much, you might take it!” Everyone laughs, and we shake hands again. Aiko’s grip is strong. She bids me goodbye. “Leaving already? Thank you very much for the gifts. I hope to see you again soon!”

I tell her it was good to see her, and that I hope we meet again soon. When I leave Aiko, she is surrounded by friends, happily engrossed in her painting.

 


 

This post is part of our Meet a Senior blog series, in which we showcase senior citizens and tell their stories. All of our subjects receive a customized Gramsly box as a thank you for their participation. If you know a senior (including yourself!) that wants to participate, please contact info@gramsly.com.