Meet at the bus stop – Magazine issue content

The paintings and interior decorating materials inside the Mary Immaculate Health / Care Services Memory Unit are intended to inspire residents to people-watch and interact. They include murals and items that bring the outdoors in.

Bruce Springsteen once asked, “Does this bus stop at 82nd Street? The song was about New York City, but it also applies to Lawrence, MA, home to Mary Immaculate Health / Care Services and its innovative new memory care unit.

The bus stop has become a popular meeting place for residents with cognitive challenges, and although the bus never comes, the stop has an important purpose, says Rebecca Alfonso, director of the memory care program.

“It’s a popular place to people watch, like a porch,” she says. “It also serves as a place to remember, like, ‘What bus number did you take to get to work? After a while, it becomes a natural way of saying, ‘Let’s go have a drink while we wait.’ “

The “bus stop” is one element of a design theme that follows the Alzheimer’s Association’s Adaptation Therapy Program, which creates a world inspired by the past lives of residents. The $ 500,000 project includes similar items such as a meeting tree, post office, memory garden and break room.

The 41-unit memory care center is part of a comprehensive senior care campus. The project took about two years, said MIHCS CEO Jeanne Leydon.

“We did a lot of the work ourselves,” she says. “We had volunteers to paint, build cupboards and shelves. “

Leydon credits retired maintenance manager John Raymond with his creative vision for things like the “back porch”. Residents can sit on a sofa or in slider chairs to view a landscape mural beyond a handmade porch railing.

Aesthetic and functional details are paramount in the decor, designed to provide “orientation” for residents, while furnishing materials promote safety. Three neighborhood styles are based on the demographics of the residents and the history of the area – the stucco represents the Latinx population, the clapboard represents the working class, and the brick recalls the town’s factory past.

Each neighborhood is designed in a specific color that helps residents get home. Light fixtures, color-coded doors and mail slots are part of every resident’s entrance, for instant recognition. The flooring is tactile, non-slip and has a padded underlay to prevent injury.

As a dementia specialist, Alfonso carefully studied the environmental aspects of design to create a “positive and relaxed” atmosphere. Working with a design committee, she and the group determined which materials offered the most protection to residents.

The centre’s holistic approach is a radical departure from conventional methods, says Leydon.

Lessons learned

  1. The Alzheimer’s Association’s Adjustment Therapy Program is a progressive method of creating a safe and supportive environment for residents with cognitive challenges.
  2. Using volunteers for tasks such as painting and carpentry is an effective way to save money.
  3. Safe materials such as padded tactile flooring are worth the extra expense, to keep residents safe.

From the December 2021 issue of McKnight’s Senior Living

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