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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid