Whatever their age, people reminisce about how the past was sweeter, purer, more challenging, more fun, more whatever than today. At Palm Garden of Clearwater (Fla.), looking back is heartwarming, fun, active, social … and therapeutic.
Bob Filley, assistant activity director, makes the past come alive again for residents, families and staff with themed parties, dinners and other events. “I've been collecting memorabilia, vintage clothing and other props for years,” he explains. And for more than 15 years, Palm Garden has been his showcase. “Bob could be a set designer, so we're lucky to have the benefit of his creativity here,” says Administrator Roy Meredith.
Each season and for holidays and special occasions, Filley and his team prepare unique displays to entertain residents. “We have seen that these settings are therapeutic for our residents with Alzheimer's or other dementia. Families are shocked that mom or dad can relate to and talk about, for instance, a 1950s TV room,” comments Filley. Complete with a mannequin dressed as Lucy Ricardo (I Love Lucy), the vignette also includes vintage furniture and a TV with special lighting to illuminate a Howdy Doody marionette inside.
But Filley's re-creation talents are not just for the memory-impaired. It is a facility-wide serendipity. “On August 17, we saluted veterans with a USO Hollywood Canteen event,” he says. The display also incorporated photos of residents who served in WWII. As a recently added feature, Filley plays DVDs of movies that were popular in the era. “Residents and guests could watch Jimmy Cagney hoof in Yankee Doodle Dandy, while they talked about the memorabilia in this hands-on environment.
This celebration didn't stop there. The main dining room turned into a USO Hollywood canteen, serving a typical dinner of the era. Staff, including servers, dressed up in period clothing and got into the act, while entertainers worked both dining rooms.
“While I feel that it's important for residents to be in the present, it also is beneficial for them to have the comfort of their memories,” he explains as his motivation for this labor-intensive (and labor of love) project. And at Palm Gardens, recollections and celebrations are the norm as Filley and his volunteers gear up for a resident favorite-Halloween.
Long-Term Living 2011 October;60(10):80