On a recent afternoon at Northwest Adult Day Health in Lynden, a handful of men sit around a long table gazing intently at piles of electronics spilled out before them. Screwdrivers in hand, they pull apart hair dryers, electronic mixers, clothes irons and other small appliances, their aged fingers deftly working like it’s four decades earlier.
All smiles as they inspect their work, the men revel in the opportunity to relive the fun times years back when they would putter around their garages at home.
“Working with hand tools is a great activity to maintain or improve fine motor skills and also to maintain mental processing abilities, as activities like this help improve focus and attention,” says Kevyn Avery, NWADH’s social worker. “It’s fun and stimulating for former machinists, mechanics, engineers and builders.”
The Tool Time program is one of a number of activities at Northwest Adult Day Health designed to stimulate members’ minds and bodies in fun and novel ways.
Music, another such program, often leads to amazing transformations among members.
“We see our clients with speech problems like aphasia string words together to form sentences when they are singing,” Avery says. “We see our clients with profound memory loss sing every word to a classic song, and we get to see friendships form as our participants reminisce while listening to live music that is performed here.”
This past summer, a local dairy farmer brought two calves to NWADH for a demonstration on caring for animals, feeding them and preparing them for showing at the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden.
“We could not have expected what ended up happening,” Avery says. “Almost all of our clients were engaged in conversation with each other as they reminisced about farms they grew up on! It was so fun to see.”
These pleasant experiences are only possible because of the planning of NWADH staff, who carefully evaluate new clients to help them build friendships and engage in programs that they find therapeutic and interesting.
“We know that it is common for older adults to isolate and withdraw, simply because they have lost so many friendships,” Avery says. “We want to try and turn that around for our clients.”
The results of programs like Tool Time are proving the success of this model, Avery adds. Whether in dementia care, assisted living or activities for seniors, NWADH provides vital services in Whatcom County.
“We have seen our clients and their families form friendships through our program, which rarely happens out in the community for someone with dementia or another chronic illness,” she says. “We often get to see the quality of life improve for our participants once they bond with others, exercise regularly and engage in cognitively stimulating activities.”