Connecting the Old with the New

Think about this: what would happen if persons living with dementia were offered an age-appropriate program that enables them to associate their past lives with the present? We know that many older adults have led wonderful and full lives. Blending Lifelong Learning with creativity provides an opportunity to connect the old or the past with the new or the present.

The term “Lifelong Learning” for older adults first emerged in the early 1990s. Since that time, it has come to mean different things: older adults who need retraining due to an obsolete vocation or those who have extra time and are curious and interested in learning new things. For persons living with dementia, the concept of Lifelong Learning can impact their daily lives that is far beyond a traditional industrial activity. Research has taught us that learning new things is vital for good brain health. Our brain doesn’t get better because we play brain games or do repetitive tasks – we need to open up our world and have new experiences. Period.

Lifelong Learning for persons with dementia isn’t about remembering facts or figures; it is about having positive experiences. These experiences lead to reigniting the old, which often leads to recall and connecting it with the new.

The “new” can be creating a Legacy Project for a loved one or contributing a single word to a large group poem. Learning and creating help establish a purpose for the participant and a connection to today’s world, interaction with other participants, and a celebration of what has been accomplished.
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