Commercials are a highly anticipated part of the Super Bowl for many viewers. Companies go all out to compete for attention during one of the most watched—and most expensive—television events of the year. It is a powerful medium in which important messages can be communicated to the public at large, and this year’s called attention to the memory challenges faced by our aging population.
This year, sandwiched between Bill Murray costarring with a groundhog for Jeep and Tom Brady’s retirement for Hulu, was a commercial from Google. There always seems to be at least one Super Bowl commercial that tugs at viewers’ heartstrings, and this year, Google’s Loretta commercial did just that.
Loretta’s elderly husband asks Google Assistant to help him remember. In this case, he’s asking the technology platform to assist him in recalling memories of his wife who passed away. The commercial is powerful and relatable.
It’s a story that plays out in families across the country every day in a variety of ways:
- A senior struggling to hold onto the memories of a loved one who has died.
- An adult child navigating a parent’s diagnosis of dementia and the memory loss that accompanies it.
- A family elder coming to terms with their own memory loss, and their fears about the journey ahead.
Memory keeps us connected with the events of a life well lived. As we grow older, however, our ability to maintain our brain health can be challenged.
The Silver Tsunami
As 10,000 Baby Boomers retire every day, the average age in this country will continue to climb. The number of adults ages 65 and older is expected to nearly double between 2018 and 2060. Older adults will account for 23 percent of the US population.
The graying of America brings with it an increase in the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Age is the leading risk factor for the disease. According to experts from the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.8 million people currently live with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, that number is expected to soar to 14 million.
For people who live with this diagnosis, memory loss is an unfortunate reality. Their loved ones may be uncertain how to protect the senior’s independence and dignity without putting safety and well-being at risk.
The Science and Emotions of Memory
Memory is the means by which our brain stores information. It is closely tied to emotions. Research shows that for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the emotions felt during an experience linger long after the memory of the event fades.
As a caregiver, you can help a loved one with dementia enjoy their best quality of life by providing opportunities for them to engage in meaningful activities (e.g., baking cookies, playing with a grandchild, petting a dog, or looking through family photos). Interactions that leave an older adult feeling joyful, even after memories of them are gone, are vital.
You can help your loved one hold onto cherished moments by exploring ways to remember.
How Not to Forget
Sunrise Senior Living CEO Chris Winkle wrote a post on LinkedIn about how the Loretta commercial “floored” him with its powerful depiction of seniors with memory loss and their caregivers.
As we witnessed with Loretta’s husband, hanging onto cherished memories is crucial for emotional well-being. For people with memory impairment, the challenge lies in finding ways to reconnect.
While technologies like Google Assistant or Alexa can be utilized, there are other low-tech avenues to explore for connecting with favorite memories:
- Create a memory box: Create and hang a memory box on the wall outside the senior’s bedroom door or near their favorite place to sit in the living room. Fill it with photos and memorabilia from whatever time in life they currently remember most. As the disease advances, change the contents of the memory box.
- Develop a photo journey: A photo journey that depicts the senior’s life at different stages may also help them access memories from long ago. While videos or digital photo albums are nice, filling an old-fashioned photo album can also be meaningful.
- Reminiscence together: Slowing down and taking time to reminisce about an older loved one’s younger days is another option. Provide triggers that might jog memories long forgotten. Ask your mother about the pink dress she wore to her high school prom or your grandfather about his military service. While current memories may be limited, memories from the past may not be.
- Listen to music: The healing harmonies of music can have a positive impact on emotional well-being at any stage in life. It’s common for adults with dementia who have lost verbal communication skills to still be able to sing. Music can also be an avenue for remembering. A favorite musician or song can transport an older adult back to happy times from childhood or young adulthood.
Reminiscence® Memory Care Program
At Sunrise communities, we understand the unique needs of adults with dementia. Our Reminiscence® Neighborhoods are designed with these individuals in mind. From Life Enrichment Managers who are trained in Validation Therapy to suites that support independence, we invite you to visit in person and learn more.
Call (888) 434-4648 to schedule a personal tour today.