Oct 8, 2011

The Kind of Magic That Makes People Appear

“The connection calms even the most agitated and confused resident, and is better than any pill. I call it taking them from a state of ill-being to a state of well-being.”

By Max Wallack
Alzheimer's Reading Room
April, 2010


There was an article in the Chicago Tribune, written by Ted Gregory, entitled Elderly dementia patients and ‘at-risk’ students create friendships.

Ten students from one of the most troubled high school in Chicago participated in a 12 week class called “Memory Bridge.” These students were taken, once a week, to a retirement facility to meet with retirees with dementia.


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Before the first meeting, each teen was matched up with a retiree “buddy” and given a brief history of their “buddy”. At the first meeting, everyone shook hands and sat silently. Soon, however, conversations began. An elderly man told a joke, and a woman sang.

On the return trip to school that day, there were many comments about how the patients had stared or drooled. One student, though, expressed her happiness with “I think I did good. She laughed a lot.”

Michael Verde, a teacher at Lake Forest Academy, created Memory Bridge in 2005. His own grandfather had passed away from dementia. According to Gregory, Verde “was so moved by the joyful interactions he witnessed between young and old that he thought the empathy and attentiveness needed to reach those dementia patients could also help create peace in Chicago’s most dangerous schools.”

By now, more than 2,000 Chicago students have participated in Memory Bridge.

Verde said, “It’s not just about people with dementia. It’s about what we’re all forgetting. And what these people are not only remembering, but what they can teach us about being human.”

Verde’s plan was that by nurturing empathy, the students could create “The kind of magic that makes people appear.”

Philip Kendall, a music teacher in Chicago, recruited students to participate to fulfill the school’s community service requirement.

Kendall said, “So many of our students couldn’t tell you one thing they’ve done in school that they feel good about … Being such an important person … with these buddies is a huge self-esteem builder.

Rebecca Reif, a program director at Montgomery Place, a retirement facility said, “The connection calms even the most agitated and confused resident, and is better than any pill. I call it taking them from a state of ill-being to a state of well-being.”

What a wonderful WIN-WIN situation! We need a lot more “Memory Bridge”.




More Insight and Advice for Caregivers

Max Wallack is a student at Boston University Academy. His great grandmother, Gertrude, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Max is the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER. PTR is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and veterans institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

Original content Max Wallack, the Alzheimer's Reading Room