Once a week, a small group gathers in Croton-on-Hudson for four hours: engaging in conversation and activity. They share stories about their day-to-day lives, discuss current events, participate in mind and body exercises, play musical instruments and sing.

Ranging in age from 67 to 92, they also bring insight from their work lives as a nun, school teacher, grocery-store owner, city worker, childcare professional and mechanic.

This eclectic group shares a unique bond – each member is experiencing early memory loss: a diagnosis characterized by subtle changes in memory function. Not hugely debilitating, initially, people can continue to live in the community, work and have active lives. However, there is enough of a change for them to realize something is different and that it must be acknowledged.

Bethel’s Memory Boosters is designed specifically for people in this transitional phase of memory loss. Says Marsha Schlig, LMSW, and program director, “Memory Boosters offers a place for people to come and be themselves, and not have to worry about feeling embarrassed or judged. It can be a difficult time for people who are just learning how to handle their memory loss. They are often not ready to share their situation with family or friends, and find Memory Boosters to be a ‘haven’ where they can receive friendly support.”

Ms. Schlig, and Program Assistant Megan Graby, B.S. in Gerontology, also offer an educational component to explain the changes that are happening and ways to manage/enhance memory function. Ms. Schlig offers practical methods and hints on how to remember. The group also devotes time to physical activity and creative expression.

In this relaxed setting, members share their stories. Ruth, a former grocery store owner, explained how she came to be part of the group. An avid card player, Ruth began to notice she was having trouble remembering her strategy. “You need to be fast and good to play, so I dropped out,” she says. Ruth also admits that at first she was embarrassed to tell her friends about the program. “Now I’m trying to get some of them to come here with me!”
And Andrew, a former schoolteacher, said he didn’t know what to expect, but is happy with what he found. “This is a very safe and caring place to be. I can share my experiences with others who have the same issues.”

Each member shares personal stories, comfortable in the camaraderie of the group and strengthened by each other’s support. This innovative program also helps raise awareness within the community, offering hope and a haven for those in need of support.

For information on Bethel’s Memory Boosters, call 914-941-7300 x3277.

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Cathy SantaColoma is Director, Communications of Bethel Homes & Services, a not-for-profit organization offering a full continuum of care including: independent and assisted living; nursing; rehabilitation; adult day services; and home care. Campuses are in Croton-on-Hudson, Ossining and Valhalla; 914-739-6700.