Episcopal Retirement Services: Community Partnerships Decrease Isolation, Improve Brain Health

ERS Center for Memory Support and Inclusion offers specialized programs for residents living with dementia, and their caregivers.
Episcopal Retirement Services: Community Partnerships Decrease Isolation, Improve Brain Health
Story & Photography provided by ERS

Episcopal Retirement Services’ Center for Memory Support and Inclusion collaborates with other Greater Cincinnati organizations to better assist residents living with dementia as well as their significant others and caregivers.

A growing need for such assistance is evident: An estimated 58 million Americans had various forms of dementia in 2021. That’s projected to grow to 88 million by 2050.

According to Shannon Braun, Center Director, regularly scheduled social gatherings, made possible through community partnerships, thwart isolation and improve brain health.

One of Braun’s top goals is to connect those living with dementia with engaging activities happening locally. Many of those activities involve the arts because artistic experiences help with memory issues.

Following are some recent Center for Memory Support and Inclusion program highlights:

Creative Connections

Braun is part of the Giving Voice Foundation, and that partnership offers a program titled Creative Connections.

It’s a group that meets weekly for 10 weeks. Caregivers meet in one room as part of a support group. The people living with dementia meet in another room with music and movement instructors — perhaps a yoga teacher or a physical therapist who ensures everyone moves safely.

Between each 10-week program, there is a two-week break.

Dancing to Remember

Another beneficial program is Dancing to Remember. It began in June 2022 as a pilot program and, following its success, a third one will be offered this fall.

“It’s been wonderful,” Braun says. Dance lessons are available for those living with various levels of dementia and their caregivers. It’s a fun activity that allows participants to break away for a bit from the stresses of their daily lives.

Dancers learn how to move gracefully around the dance floor, and they get to learn new things about each other.

“We’ve partnered with a wonderful woman in Sharonville, Mary Ramirez Cook, who owns a dance studio, and she’s been very gracious to teach dance lessons to our residents,” Braun says. “The lessons combine social activity and exercise, which are both essential to brain health, and the repetitive movement is also great for the brain.

Dancing to Remember concludes with celebrations where participants demonstrate their newly learned dancing skills to the delight of their families.

Music in Motion

To fill the two-week gap between each 10-week Creative Connections session, a new program called Music in Motion was launched. This program, a collaboration of the Giving Voice Foundation and the Cincinnati Opera, offers more opportunities for people with dementia to enjoy music and movement.

“An opera singer or a choir director leads us in singing songs, and then we switch to chair exercises with a yoga instructor. It’s a lot of fun,” Braun says.

Participants enjoy singing with their friends and experience the freedom of expressing themselves musically.

With Art in Mind

The ERS Center for Memory Support and Inclusion, in partnership with the Contemporary Art Center, offers another fun program called With Art in Mind. Participants view art exhibits and create their own artworks, having fun while expressing themselves artistically.

The Center also collaborates with other museums, such as the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Taft Museum of Art, and the American Sign Museum, to give people with dementia more access to art and culture.

Braun educates the museums’ docents and staff about dementia, helping Greater Cincinnati become a more dementia-inclusive community.

“People are energized and enthusiastic about it, showing me that the community wants this type of information and wants to help expand these opportunities,” she says.

Wild About Minds

The Center received a grant from the Sutphin Family Foundation to add more programs this year, and one that began in August and is sure to be popular is Wild About Minds, sponsored by the Cincinnati Zoo. Wild About Minds allows people with dementia to interact with animals and nature at the zoo, and to learn more about wildlife conservation. The program is designed to stimulate the senses, enhance memory, and promote socialization.

Is someone you love living with dementia? Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS) offers specialized programs and support for residents living with dementia and their caregivers. Visit TheERSCenter.org for more information.

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