News / Health

    Memories Help Boost Sense of Self-worth in Elderly

    Retired clinical therapist Doug Oliver discusses old times with Geneva McElroy at a senior center in Nashville, Tennessee. (M. Osborne/VOA)Retired clinical therapist Doug Oliver discusses old times with Geneva McElroy at a senior center in Nashville, Tennessee. (M. Osborne/VOA)
    x
    Retired clinical therapist Doug Oliver discusses old times with Geneva McElroy at a senior center in Nashville, Tennessee. (M. Osborne/VOA)
    Retired clinical therapist Doug Oliver discusses old times with Geneva McElroy at a senior center in Nashville, Tennessee. (M. Osborne/VOA)
    Mike Osborne

    At a senior center in Nashville, Tennessee, Doug Oliver and his friend, Geneva McElroy, talk about old times.

    But it is more than a simple stroll down memory lane. Through guided conversation, Oliver helps seniors remember their own self-worth by drawing on the memories of experiences long past.

    “They can see what they have done that has or will impact the future and it lifts their mood," he said. "Many times they will realize that they are and were important; that they have something to offer.”

    In a society that celebrates eternal youth, a renewed appreciation of wisdom and experience can help older people cope with loss and depression.  Oliver says the technique, sometimes called “reminiscence therapy” is especially effective with seniors.

    “One of the hidden benefits that many elders have is that, even when they are having trouble with short-term memory, their long-term memories are usually intact for a much longer time,” he said.

    Short term and long term memories are stored in different areas of the brain.  Diseases that impair one may not affect the other. Alzheimer’s Disease, for example, begins in the areas of the brain where short-term memories are created and held.

    Oliver used that quirk of the human brain to help his geriatric patients during the more than two decades he worked as a clinical therapist. Retired now, he no longer has patients, but each week he visits the daycare facility for seniors. He tries to lift the spirits of the people he’s come to care about, because depression for seniors can be deadly.

    “Without trying to lift the depression a little bit, people can languish quickly and deteriorate," he said, "and so part of the purpose is to take that healthy part of their thinking and get that firing as passionately as you can.”

    Oliver says the key is to connect the past to the present and the future; both good experiences and bad, victories and regrets.

    “Help them to determine what they learned from those incidents, those memories," he said. "How did that apply to them and their families in the present, and what impact do they think they have had on the future.”

    Catholic Charities, which runs the facility, couldn't be happier with Oliver's work. Senior daycare coordinator Linda Edwards says he has a gift for helping the elderly feel valued.

    “They respond readily to his interest in them and his ability to get them to talk about what they remember, what they enjoyed," Edwards said. "And they come away from those interactions feeling good about themselves.”

    Every once in a while Oliver thinks about quitting because he is legally blind, a result of macular degeneration, so getting to the daycare center and home again can be a chore. But Oliver says he has always been drawn to seniors and the stories they tell.

    “Each time I consider that, I actually step back and say, ‘No. I am where I need to be right now, and I am doing what I should be doing.’”

    Oliver says an added benefit to listening to the stories seniors tell is that it brings history alive in a way nothing else can. 

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora