09 Mar 2015

Reawakening the Senses at Rockaway Care Center

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As we age, our senses dull. Slowly but surely, we need large-print books to cope with our lessened eyesight, hearing aids for our diminished hearing, salt on everything to combat the tastelessness, and a reminder of what roses truly smell like. Even our sense of touch might go downhill. Even though we can’t fully turn back the clock on the loss of senses, interestingly, research has shown that rehabilitation can be effective. Sensory rehabilitation involves re-awakening the senses in order to revive recognition, and jar our memories into reliving the sensory experiences we cherish, yet may have gone into remission.

At Rockaway Care Center, we run an activity called Sensory Group a few times each month, which offers different types of sensory-focused programs. Here are some of the activities people engage in to reactivate the senses during the golden years.

1.       Fruit phenomena.  Take your average orange, apple, and strawberry. Have you ever been fully conscious about how differently they each feel? Start by just looking at them. Notice their contrasts: smooth versus rough, thin peel versus thick peel, or no peel at all. Rub your fingers and thumbs all around them, and then lightly touch them to the tip of your tongue. After fully taking in their tactile qualities, take a small bite. Slowly, feel the texture in your mouth, and absorb the taste along with it. Altogether, you will use five senses just for fruit.           

2.       Aromatherapy effects. Scents can set moods, as well as remind us of past scenarios or people simply by association. (Ever noticed how a certain perfume gets associated with a particular relative? Hopefully for the good!) One activity is to take several essential oils, and place a few drops of each in a separate cup in order to smell them individually.Popular essential oils include vanilla, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, jasmine, and even chamomile.

3.       Musical interludes.  Ever heard of a tea dance? It’s a way to combine the senses of smell, taste, hearing, and touch.  At the Sensory Group, we might call a tea dance in order to relaxingly and nostalgically have an afternoon interlude with music and, a few choice rhythmic steps. Whenever possible, we have a real record player and LP’s of music enjoyed back in the day – some of which are provided by our very own residents.  At other times, we use our CDs or even music files and play away. It’s a way to tune the ears, get a bit of exercise, and bask warmly in a mug of aromatherapeutic tea leaves with friends.           

4.       An Extra: Facials/Foot Massages/Manicures. Talk about sensory titillation – this one’s a top-of-the-list item. While we might not do spa days at the Sensory Group, we definitely recommend it as an excellent idea for a gift from friends or family for our residents…and by no means not just for the elderly. By massaging, lotioning, and even decorating our faces, feet or hands, we feel revived and beautified.            

Our senses have a large influence on our identities. When we participate in actively triggering our senses, we retain more of a (literal) sense of our own aliveness.  The Rockaway Care Center’s Sensory Group succeeds in keeping people’s senses more activated, which thereby leaves our residents more satisfied and happy with their lives.



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