We have known for a very long time that lifestyle, such as diet, exercise, music and art, and spiritual practices, affect our health and well-being. But, did you know that social isolation is directly linked to decreased longevity? That’s right! More than cigarette smoking and even obesity, living alone and being isolated can shorten our lives. Not only that, the quality of our shortened life is at risk with social isolation potentially contributing to dementia. When we think about healthy aging, then, we need to consider not only a healthy diet and exercise, but also how we can actively participate in events and groups to constantly make new friends and experience a sense of belonging and community. Rolling Ridge’s Day Apart, called, Revive and Thrive, is an innovative, local retreat providing just such opportunities. While this is a day together, relationships and supports can continue through other related groups and activities held through dementia-supportive programming including: Revive and Thrive, a weekly fitness program at the Andover/North Andover YMCA’s Aging Wellness Center; Andover’s monthly Memory-Making Café, at Salvatore’s Restaurant; and monthly community conversations called, Dementia Dialogues, at the Andover Memorial Hall Library.
This approach is based on a philosophy and innovative programming that reframes dementia as not the stigmatized and frightening death sentence that we often consider it to be, but rather as living with a challenge that created some disability and challenges specific to the chronic health condition. Revive an Thrive offers evidence-supported programming and tools for continuing to develop meaningful relationships by being together sharing art, music, movement, meditation, nature, good food and conversation, and more!
This comes out of, in part, the exciting dementia-friendly movement supporting people living with dementia and their families in continuing to lead meaningful, and purposeful lives - in community. This global movement, which has taken hold locally through Dementia Friendly Massachusetts, is raising awareness through innovative trainings and cross-sector collaborations to slow us down and to create meaningful engagement for all members of our communities. This is so important – especially in this time in history where our daily lives are increasingly fast-paced and digitized, requiring us to navigate basic daily functions with technology.
Those living with cognitive challenges are too often left behind, unable to keep up with their fast-paced, digitized community. Consider an ordinary day in which even small pleasures and basic necessities require technology savvy: making coffee, watching TV, using an ATM, checking email, listening to the radio or using GPS while driving, paying for parking, and more. Consider, too, that access to our connections and information requires knowing login PINS and passwords, which remote operates what, how to operate credit card swiping, and more. In our information and technology-based society, those of us who can manage all of this are valued and easily included in our community activities. Those who cannot are devalued because they “slow us down” at work, at home, on the roads, and in our stores. In these times, they are more isolated than ever and, too often, rather than risk being humiliated and scorned by our impatience, remain at home.
Beyond becoming invisible, people living with dementia and their care partners are feared – perhaps because they remind us how dependent we are on the data-processing mind in this age of accelerations, as writer, Thomas Friedman calls it in his new book, Thank You for Being Late. They often experience terrible social isolation because of society’s dementiaphobia. Coined in Psychology Today in 2013, dementiaphobia refers to a pervasive fear and stigma attributed to those living with dementia.