A one-of-a-kind day center will inspire and stimulate memories for people living with Alzheimer’s.
George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers partnered with the San Diego Opera’s Scenic Studio to create an indoor simulated replica of a San Diego Town Square circa the mid-1950s. Complete with a City Hall, Seaport Village-style eateries, and a miniature Balboa Park, it will set the stage for a new model of Alzheimer's reminiscence therapy. Participants will engage in activities that avoid the need for short-term memory, while stimulating long-term memories.
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Scott Tarde, CEO of the Glenner Center, says reminiscence therapy achieves more than just a trip down memory lane.
"The thought process of reminiscence therapy is it helps reduce agitation, improve mood and improve sleep quality. That translates to a better experience for the participant and especially for the family caregivers, who are the silent victims in this whole thing"“The idea came about after my 11-year-old daughter came home raving about her visit to BizTown, a model city providing hands-on business experience for children. I went to check it out around November 2015 and that’s where the spark started.”
Continued below ad...23 storefronts offer fully-immersive reminiscence therapy from a time that will be fondly remembered by many seniors with dementia. There will be a library, school house, hotel, restaurant, grocery store, fitness center, department store, pet shop, hardware store, beauty salon, art and music studio, and sports pub with a half-basketball court
The potential has no limits, with talk of a jazz club and other future changes. “Hopefully we won’t need it by then, but the storefronts could be designed and changed to accommodate a different era such as the 1980s.”
What will the activities look like?
“We envision taking seniors through a structured day like they had in their life at that time. We might start off in the café and read about current events while drinking coffee and then move into the office building and do some structured activities, then onto the museum, then lunch at the diner, and then maybe see a movie. The exciting thing is there are endless combinations and each storefront has any number of activities that can be done. When patients go home at the end of the day, they will have had a rich, full day."
A 1955 jukebox at the diner and a 1959 T-bird in the garage will complement a movie theater featuring films from 1953 to 1961.
San Diego Opera’s Scenic Studios has built sets for opera, museums, corporate events, Comic-Con, and rock bands for more than 40 year. But this is a totally new challenge for them.
San Diego Opera’s general director David Bennett said the design concepts came from old photos and drawings of local buildings from the 50s and 60s. The sets can be put together, taken apart and stored easily.
The budget? $3 million, to be raised by fundraisers and crowdsourcing.
While this is the first "town" of its kind, using the arts as dementia therapy is growing. “Meet Me at the Met” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MoMA) in New York offers great Alzheimer's programs that have inspired similar programs worldwide.
Tarde is excited. “We would like to see it replicated in every city across the nation. It will engage people in a different way, including the family members, who struggle every day with where to go with their loved ones.”
- ABC 10 News
- Nonprofit Quarterly
- San Diego Reader