Centers for Health and Aging
The Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging houses three distinct centers:
- The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Aging Resource Center: Focused on improving the physical, mental and spiritual health of older adults and their caregivers through education, counseling around dementia care, and support for patients and caregivers. In 2017, more than 120 classes were offered with over 8,000 points of contact with older adults from the Upper Valley area of New Hampshire. Tech Coaching and My Story with New Eyes below are just two examples of the programs offered.
- The Northern New England Geriatric Education Center funded by the Health Services Resources Administration (HRSA)
- The Center for Research focusing on Implementation Science with approximately $7 million of grant funding.
For anyone who did not grow up in the age of technology, even the simplest tasks available with use of a smart phone or iPad can be daunting. Older folks may want to jump into the 21st century, but at times are at a loss on how to begin. One very popular program at the D-H Aging Resource Center is “Tech Coaching.” Every Wednesday afternoon in 1:1 appointments, a local high school student will sit with an older person to untangle the misperceptions of technology. Whether it is as simple as deleting an email or more complicated like setting up folders and sending pictures, the students demonstrate patience and compassion as they go step-by-step (sometimes over and over) until there is understanding and real joy at learning something new.
The intergenerational nature of the program is part of the beauty. Older folks love the energy of the students, and the students appreciate the life experiences of their elders. The sharing of life’s journeys are part of the learning. Last year, we had approximately 200 individual appointment times with many older folks coming back repeatedly to work on more complicated questions. They often ask for the same student helper, forming long-lasting relationships. The older adults enjoy watching the students’ progress in school, and seeing them choose colleges and plan for their futures.
My Story with New Eyes
Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) slowly strip an individual of his/her memories, independence, and identity. During the earliest stages of ADRD, persons with dementia have some awareness of their losses and deficits, including the challenges related to communicating with others. People with ADRD often withdraw from the social activities that once kept them engaged in their communities. Depression, anxiety, and grief are common in the mild stages of ADRD.
The Project, "My Story with New Eyes" utilized exercises in photography and mindfulness to highlight the remaining abilities of people with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and mild dementia. "My Story with New Eyes" engaged participants in social interactions, art production, and new learning, allowing for a sense of accomplishment. Most fundamentally, the project offered joy to people during a time of great loss.
The trajectory of ADRD often leads to care partners taking over many of the activities (e.g., bill paying, meal preparation, toileting) formerly completed by or in partnership with the person with dementia. Because both members of the ADRD care partnership learned photography skills and developed a creative portfolio together, the person with dementia and his/her companion had a shared experience, leveling the power structure typical of ADRD.
The project was very successful in incorporating photography, mindfulness exercises, discussion and poetry into the class. The D-H Aging Resource Center later hosted a several-month exhibit displaying art created by the project participants.
When asked "What would you like people to see in your collection of photos?" one of the participants wrote: "I would like people to see that my creative and intuitive self is alive and well! Seeing things with new eyes is a remarkable experience. I hope people get inspired to try something new."
When asked “How would you describe your experience in the workshop?” another participate said: “Surprised and delighted by my companions’ brilliance, their perspectives, and talent.”
And finally, a man faced with memory challenges said: “The ‘With New Eyes’ underlying premise of the course was a new and positive experience to those of us facing a formidable deterioration of most aspects of our lives.”
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