Last week, Association Montessori International held the first European Symposium on Montessori for Aging and Dementia in Prague. I was honored to be one of the featured speakers and chose to speak about making the connection between the Montessori classroom and a Montessori community for elders. I shared with the audience the difference and similarities in the materials, prepared environment and the way the individual is guided by the trained Montessori staff. Montessori’s work was such a detailed study of human behavior that the approach she developed is beneficial to us all-no matter our age. We had a mix of health care professionals and Montessori educators in the audience. I met interesting people from England, Australia, Canada, France, Russia, Poland, Germany, Austria, India, Japan, China, Czech Republic, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Malaysia, Rumania, and I am sure a few other places that I can’t recall! I was moved by their dedication to improving the lives of elders.
All week, I experienced amazing coincidences. First, I hired a guide to show me Prague and teach me about the city’s history. Of course, she asked me why I was visiting, so I told her about the work I do. It turns out that she has a degree in art history and runs a special program at one of the museums for individuals living with dementia. She shared with me that she is making a short documentary about art and dementia and at the end of my trip, interviewed myself and my colleague Michelle Bourgeois about dementia for her film. As I have found talking with others from around the world, your race, color or background doesn’t matter – dementia impacts us all
Next, on my first of two flights home, I met a viola player from New York who was in Prague teaching music classes. Again, I shared what I do for a living and she told me that she runs a program that uses music and movement with people with dementia. How incredible for me to meet yet another person who understands the importance of using procedural memory and preserved abilities to help individuals creatively express themselves. We shared contact information and promised to stay in touch.
On my last flight, I met two families. The first had a mother who just passed away from Alzheimer’s disease and struggled to keep her home for as long as possible, and the second, a couple who both work with the elderly; one as a hospital discharge planner and one as a physician. We all discussed the immense stress that families experience while trying their best to keep their loved ones safe and healthy at home.
No matter what our profession in health care, it is vitally important that we continue to strive to support care partners and people living with dementia so they do not feel that they are going through this alone. This condition touches all of us. It’s time we pull together and create communities of acceptance and support.