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Students Help Alzheimer Patients

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N’Amerind Friendship Centre, a First Nations Canadian organization that serves aboriginal communities in London, Ontario, is partnering with the Alzheimer Society of London and Middlesex, to help the elders preserve their memories and foster the Native storytelling tradition, the London Free Press reported. The Center is joining the Generation Link -- a program that matches high school students with seniors suffering from early Alzheimer’s disease.

“The purpose is to increase the social interaction between the senior and the student through discussing favorite themes or parts of the senior’s past,” said Betsy Little, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of London and Middlesex. Students involved in the program will spend time with Alzheimer patients and record their favorite memories. At the end of the program, the teens present the memory books to their partners during a special celebration.

The patients seem to love the idea. According to Little, one of the patients was so excited about memory books that he decided to make one for his wife and his children as well.

Anthony Isaac, a Generation Link volunteer facilitator, told LFP: “This is a crucial time in our era because of the risk of losing our traditions, our culture, the language. A lot of this knowledge is being held with our elders and some of them are scared to share it because of residential schools and the fear that was instilled in passing on traditions and using the language”. Isaak hopes that the program will allow the elders to pass their knowledge to the next generation.

Generation Link’s way of educating children about Alzheimer is much different from the rather dystopian South Korean practice that recently got a write-up in the New York Times. According to the Times, South Korean children are encouraged prepare for dealing with their senior relatives by “playing old”. Government’s Aging-Friendly Comprehensive Experience Hall near Seoul offers a “dementia experience” where visitors--including children-- are asked to perform various household tasks while wearing weighted harnesseses, fogged-up glasses and other props that make simple chores very hard to accomplish

N'Amerind Friendship Centre is a non-profit organization committed to the promotion of physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual well-being of Native people and in particular, Urban Native People. They implement culturally relevant programs that focus on education, recreational activities, and leadership. According to their website, the Center’s goal is to increase awareness of Native heritage, establish resources for community growth, and promote the development of urban aboriginal self-governing institutions.