There were representatives from six local churches and two had travelled from further afield, in Kent, to the session of ‘Brain boosting for seniors’, at Stanhope Baptist Church, on 16 March.
Trainer Janet Jacob has been running these sessions for individuals living independently at our housing complex in Yorkshire (Royd Court) for over a year now, with very good results.
We are now beginning to trial the concept more widely with pastoral leaders, for use in their churches. There are two types of sessions: one for seniors who would like to keep their minds sharp; and the other for people with early stage dementia.
The sessions are planned to stimulate more than cognitive function. They’re also designed to give spiritual support and affirm participants’ unique identity — and to be fun! For example, one session saw residents tell their stories by using hats as props.
At Royd Court, the first group showed improved memory and cognitive function, reduced agitation and anxiety, increased self-confidence and sociability, and, as far as we could measure, strengthened faith.
They also developed friendships with one another. It was heart-warming to see that two participants who had the most difficulty with ‘normal’ communicating became close friends. Understanding is not always communicated with words, it seems.
Ms Jacob’s career has always been with older people, first as a psychogeriatric nurse and then as a Pilgrim Homes’ care home manager. She is now a regular speaker at conferences and seminars at churches on issues of old age, including dementia.
After the results of these first trials, we plan to produce a ‘Brain boosting’ DVD, available for everyone who wants to run the groups in their church fellowships and communities (http://blog.pilgrimsfriend.org.uk).