/ Modified apr 30, 2015 4:57 p.m.

Community Program Aims to Slow Progression of Dementia

'Elder Care' helps people with memory loss stay physically and mentally active.

Elder Rehab (PHOTO: Vanessa Barchfield, Arizona Public Media)

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Retired Professor Sharon Arkin has a new home for a program she ran at the University of Arizona in the late nineties, aimed at helping people with memory loss stay physically and mentally active.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 30 senior citizens with varying stages of dementia have attended her 'Elder Care' program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center twice a week.

"Elder Rehab is an intergenerational program that creates partnerships between university undergraduate volunteers and elderly people that have some type of memory loss," said Arkin, now a practicing psychologist. She volunteers her time at the JCC, which donates space and in-kind support for the program.

During their sessions, the UA students work with their elderly partners on games to exercise memory skills. They also spend time together in a workout room – the older folks doing chest presses and leg lifts while their student partners help with form and keep track of their progress.

According to Arkin, the combination of physical and mental work is meant to slow the progression of dementia, and lift their spirits.

It also gives hands-on work experience to students interested in health sciences. In fact most of the volunteers this semester did not even get school credit.

The program is now accepting applications from both senior citizens with some form of memory loss and students. Click here for more information.

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