February 26, 2019 3:18 pm
Updated: February 26, 2019 3:19 pm

Sentimental objects can hold therapeutic value for seniors

WATCH ABOVE: There is a lot to tackle when helping a loved move into assisted living. But instead of a massive purge, you may want to start with identifying the sentimental objects. As Kim Smith explains, those may be the key in helping them settle in.

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When helping a loved one make the move into an assisted living facility, families may be inclined to purge many of their possessions. However, identifying and holding onto sentimental objects  may be the key to helping new residents settle in.

“Objects can really illustrate to others who they are, but sometimes can really introduce people to each other,” Megan Strickfaden, a professor of human ecology at the University of Alberta, said.

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Strickfaden has been working on a series of films that explore the emotional connection between objects and residents of assisted living facilities.

“Those objects can really show who they are without speaking,” she said.

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By showcasing a glimpse into a person’s life, sentimental objects can help residents build connections with other residents and also caregivers at the facility, Strickfaden said.

“(Family members) might often think of those possessions as just objects. But those are not just objects to the people who own them,” she said. “There’s a lot of embedded meaning. There’s a lot of embedded value in what those objects are and how they represent the lives that they’ve lived.”

The illustrated and narrated films centre on specific objects or themes, such as a necklace or musical notes. They are made with input from residents at Edmonton-area care facilities.

One of the people who helped worked on the films is Kevin Strach. He moved into an assisted living facility, Copper Sky Lodge in Spruce Grove, about six years ago for help with mobility issues.

“It was hard to leave home, the wife and kids, but it was something I had to do,” he said.

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Though his surroundings have changed, Strach continues his passion to craft. Currently, he’s creating jewelry on a small table in his room.

“I am always learning something,” Strach said.

For the films, Strach was asked to create pictures of what he was feeling while listening to certain music.

By working on the project and watching the finished product, Strach said he learned more about what a person with dementia might be feeling. He also said the films have the potential to illustrate the importance of sentimental objects.

“To have pictures of family or friends, things you’ve done, projects you’ve done… It’s nice to keep them around,” Strach said. “They really have a meaning. You just can’t let go of things like that.”


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