“I get to have fun all day,” Sydney Malmin, Arbor Village at Hillcrest Senior Living’s Vibrant Life Director said about her day-to-day work. Sydney has held the position for five years, two of which have been at Arbor Village. She works hands-on with more than 100 residents in her building, coordinating activities that “keep them active” and “help them keep their brains stimulated.”
Arbor Village residents do anything from exercise to Jeopardy. Another activity is baking, during which Sydney said she asks the residents questions to practice memory recall. Engaging in activities that keep the brain active is crucial for older adults, especially those at risk for dementia and cognitive decline.
Dementia Australia, a charity organization, reported that “cognitive and functional decline in people with dementia may be delayed by continued participation in mentally stimulating activities,” such as the ones described by Sydney.1 This is critical for adults over the age of 60, the majority age group living in assisted living facilities, who are more prone to cognitive decline.
Arbor Village got involved with Conversations to Remember at the beginning of 2021. The organization reached out, talked to Sydney, and set up calls with the program. The calls are another way to keep her residents active.
“Having Conversations to Remember call us and offer to do these calls was probably the biggest blessing we ever got during COVID,” Sydney said. With many residents to attend to and COVID-19 lockdown protocols in place, it was hard to reach everyone. And, Sydney said, during long periods of quarantine, “it gets incredibly lonely for them.”
After starting to work with Conversations to Remember, Sydney said she saw a positive impact on her residents. For one resident in particular, the volunteers on weekly calls have become a kind of family. “She’s got two different groups every week, and both of them are ‘her kids,’” Sydney said, “she, herself, doesn’t have very much family, so these kids have kind of become that for her.” The bonds formed between seniors and volunteers on calls bring residents company in otherwise lonely and isolated times.
“Honestly, I don’t think I can say enough about Conversations to Remember,” Sydney said. She shared her support for the organization by sharing heartwarming stories about her residents and their weekly calls, and encouraged others to join in as well. “Encourage them [to join] because they might not have a whole lot in common with their generation,” she said, referring to the residents and student volunteers, “but we learn from them about how things used to be, and it makes us appreciate what we have a little bit more.”
Arbor Village at Hillcrest Senior Living is an assisted living facility built in 1984, located in Boise, Idaho.
1. Dementia Q&A 6 – mental exercise and dementia. Dementia Australia. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2021, from https://www.dementia.org.au/sites/default/files/helpsheets/Helpsheet-DementiaQandA06-MentalExercise_english.pdf.