Ridgefield Station believes it’s time for a better understanding of dementia and Alzheimer’s. The senior living community recently hosted several introductory workshops to kick off their Dementia Friendly Communities initiative in an effort to make Ridgefield a dementia friendly town. They invited local municipal leaders and leaders from other local organizations around Ridgefield to learn more about the proposed initiative and join their efforts.
To frame the discussion at each of the workshops, participants were put through Ridgefield Station’s unique immersive sensitivity training, the Dementia Experience, one of the initiative’s multi-model learning opportunities. The Dementia Experience uses sensory modifications and role playing activities to thrust participants into a world that someone with dementia experiences on an average day, aiming to simulate the basic and sometimes dangerous challenges they face including preparing meals and managing medications.
Everyone walked away with a greater sense of the challenges faced by someone with dementia including isolation, poor nutrition, and medication error. “As our community ages, we will need to be more cognizant of people’s increasing limitations,” noted Selectwoman Barbara Manners. “We all need to be better educated, and learn to treat people with dementia in a respectful and sensitive manner.”
“As someone who loves to be immersed in community, this experience helped me learn more about how to help and communicate with those affected, and in a way that brings value and comfort. That’s the type of town I want to live in,” shared Suzanne Brennan, Executive Director of Lounsbury House and Board Member of Compassionate Ridgefield.
The Dementia Friendly Communities initiative is a public education campaign intended to combat the social stigma and misconceptions that accompany dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and related cognitive impairments. The ultimate goal is to build a community culture that befriends and helps those with dementia and engages them in community life, empowers them and recognizes their contribution. The program was developed by Senior Living Residences (SLR), the management company for Ridgefield Station, who launched the program in 2014 in Westfield, MA, making the city the first Dementia Friendly City on the east coast of the US.
Ridgefield Station is hoping to bring their Dementia Experience Sensitivity Training to eldercare organizations in the area, along with local merchants, banks, supermarkets, and other businesses. “We hope this training will help them to better understand what someone with dementia is going through on a daily basis, and how to deescalate potentially challenging situations,” says Joe Simone, Ridgefield Station’s Executive Director. “We’re excited to see community leaders already starting to get behind this.”