Dementia Committee leads visit to Carousel Museum

RISTOL – Tom and Sue Scanlon sat side by side holding hands while riding in the carousel chariot as it took them on a “journey” – back in time reminiscing about childhood. The Scanlons and several other Jerome Home residents recently visited the New England Carousel Museum, located at 95 Riverside Ave., where they rode on the merry-go-round as the final stop on their tour. Many of them recalled childhood outings to Lake Compounce or Lighthouse Point in New Haven for family picnics.

The excursion to the museum was organized by the Hartford HealthCare Senior Services Dementia Committee, which introduced the Memories & More initiative several years ago. The program, which includes a Museums & More component, immerses residents of Hartford HealthCare Senior Services residential communities into the arts, providing enrichment and inclusion into former activities. The first collaboration was made with the New Britain Museum of American Art, which residents visited last year.

Eighteen docents were trained at the Carousel Museum and administrative assistant Sue Daigle headed the recent tour of the older adults who live at Jerome Home, located at 975 Corbin Ave. in New Britain. “Does anyone remember riding a carousel?” she asked. Older adults hold a special place in her heart and she had many family members with dementia. “Leading this tour is a tribute to my own parents and godparents,” she reflected.

After learning about the history of carousels and a bit about the artistry of woodcarving, the visitors were eager to point out their favorite creatures among the colorful menagerie: a seahorse, pigs, camel, zebra, even a giraffe. Patty O’Brian, CDP, a dementia specialist with Hartford HealthCare Center for Healthy Aging and a member of the Hartford HealthCare Senior Services Dementia Committee, pointed out details such as jewels that decorated the bridles.

The collaboration with the museum was a wonderful experience, she said. “The best part is the wonderful connections seen in the residents’ faces when the docents slow down the information and allow processing to happen for individuals with dementia,” she commented.

Louise Laurentano DeMars, Carousel Museum executive director, also welcomed and guided the group. First-time visitors are often spellbound when they enter, amazed at the collection of merry-go-round creatures and historical memorabilia which has been assembled from across the country. She said the exhibits are popular with people of all ages and she loves how they inspire memories. “We have a real treasure here,” she said.

As carousel music played, the smiles on the faces of the Jerome Home visitors and staff confirmed that sentiment.

Jerome Home, located at 975 Corbin Ave. in New Britain, offers skilled nursing, short-term rehabilitation, residential care, memory care and assisted living. For more information about Jerome Home, a not for profit member of Hartford HealthCare Senior Services, visit jeromehome.org or call 860.229.3707. The next open house will be held Sunday, July 15, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information about resources and programs concerning dementia and other healthy aging issues, visit Hartford HealthCare Center for Healthy Aging at http://hhccenterforhealthyaging.org or call 1.877.424.4641.