FRANKLIN, Tenn. (November 14, 2016) – Wandering around an unfamiliar space with obstructed eyesight and limited mobility were not residents at The Lantern at Morning Pointe of Franklin. Instead, it was the students of Franklin Christian Academy (FCA), who experienced first-hand a day in the life of a person living with dementia.

The simulation activity is a part of an ongoing partnership between FCA and the assisted living and memory care community. As part of the Meaningful Day™ program, the seniors and students engage in enriching activities through intergenerational programming to bridge the gap between generations.

During the tour, 17 students from Kristi Marsh’s class performed minor household tasks while wearing goggles and other obstructions to limit vision, mobility and hearing. Attempting to fold clothes and navigate living spaces, the students experienced overwhelming difficulty performing normal activities not unlike that which, experts say, are signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’ve personally known people who have had Alzheimer’s,” says Alyssa Hoesel, FCA student who participated in the simulation. “It really put in perspective how difficult their day-to-day life is and why they need so much help and support. It was so hard to just grab things and try to do simple tasks. I can only imagine how frustrating it is for them.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, taking longer to finish day-to-day activities is among many of the mild symptoms of the disease, while moderate symptoms involve difficulty accomplishing tasks involving a number of steps and the inability to recognize family and friends.

While these teenagers have many years ahead of themselves before they’ll need to worry about their risk, the memory care associates agree that one is never too young to start thinking about aging health.

“The exercise was designed to help the students better understand the physical and mental changes that occur with dementia,” says Ashley Briggs, Lantern program director at Morning Pointe of Franklin. “Through this tour, we hope to educate and spread awareness to people who are impacted by the condition as well as those who know little about it but wish to learn more.”

Briggs says the Alzheimer’s Simulation is used to help Morning Pointe associates and caregivers understand the importance of empathy in day-to-day care.

“For many of us, it is easy for us to overlook the difficulties experienced by those living with dementia,” she says. “And so through activities like these, we can encourage empathy and greater understanding to better serve those living with this condition.”

Photo: Franklin Christian Academy students and Kristi Marsh, teacher, attempt to fold laundry and sort household items. Kristin Rosario, Morning Pointe of Franklin associate, tapes the fingers of Harry Walters, FCA student, to simulate the loss of fine motor skills experienced by people living with dementia.