In August, The Sylvestery (TS), Vinson Hall Retirement Community’s memory care community, received a very generous donation from a Sylvestery family member who wishes to remain anonymous. The family member donated $50,000 to The Sylvestery to express gratitude and appreciation for all that The Sylvestery does for the residents of that community. The donor requested that $5,000 be directed toward an appreciation bonus for every TS staff member and that the remaining amount be used to support TS’s activities program, sensory room, and improvements to its courtyards.
As Antionette Doublin, Senior Director of The Sylvestery and Arleigh Burke Pavilion explained, “We earned the family member’s trust, and the donor felt moved to donate to The Sylvestery.” The donor was especially impressed by the hard work of the staff and the phenomenal job that The Sylvestery’s activities managers do every day, engaging with the residents on a personal level.
Upon receiving the donation, Analisse Vasquez Soto, Assistant Administrator of The Sylvestery, instructed the activities staff to make a wish list. Carlos Leiva and Stacey Samuels, activities managers for The Sylvestery, hopped to the task. One of the items requested was interactive white boards, which are used in small- and medium-sized group settings to play games or stimulate vocabulary use.
“These games or activities encourage our residents to think, to be creative and use their words,” said Analisse. “Often we have the misconception that people with dementia or Alzheimer’s can’t do anything, which is not true. All of our residents are intelligent, thoughtful individuals, who have had amazing careers and life experiences. These experiences don’t just disappear with a diagnosis of dementia. Through our activities – and now thanks to the new technology we are able to purchase – we work with our residents to stimulate their thinking, so we can try to delay the vocabulary loss and the loss of engagement that comes with the disease.”
On a recent afternoon, Carlos shared funny dog pictures with a small group of five residents, who laughed at the dogs’ silly costumes or expressions. This laughter is a delight to Analisse. As dementia or Alzheimer’s progresses, Analisse explained, it is harder and harder to elicit reactions from individuals. “To have a piece of technology that encourages the residents to laugh is invaluable,” said Analisse.
In addition to the white boards, Analisse and her staff have plans to purchase Virtual Reality (VR) googles. VR googles provide 360-degree scenic views of wildlife, nature, or other pictures. For example, a picture of a childhood home could be scanned and uploaded into the VR googles, allowing the viewer to have the sense they were standing in front of their former home.
“Most of our residents did not grow up with technology,” said Analisse. “Some people think that because of this they can’t appreciate or enjoy what technology can offer. But it’s amazing to see how adaptive our residents are to technology. Our hope is that with this technology and with the care of our staff they will be able to live life without limits.”