Skip to content Skip to navigation

OPTIMA Award: Reading series keeps residents with dementia learning

September 25, 2014
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
| Reprints
Click on the seal to view the photo gallery

[Editor's Note: This article is part of the coverage of the 2014 Long-Term Living OPTIMA Award winner. Read part 1 here.]

Benchmark Senior Living’s journey began with a small idea that grew into a massive file cabinet of material. The reading series, first piloted in 2012, began as a way to engage residents in learning about new subjects. The series included short booklets on topics such as the biography of a sports figure or the hallmarks of Spanish cuisine. Each booklet is intended to exercise residents’ minds, encouraging them to read and to learn something new each day.

Along the way, Joshua Freitas, director of memory care innovation and services for Benchmark, noticed that some of the residents had a difficult time reading the booklets. Older adults naturally lose some ability to discern colors as they age, but chronic conditions such as diabetes, macular degeneration, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s also contribute to color deficit vision, notes the American Optometric Association.

Freitas changed the font to a larger type, added a large, red “next page” prompt and changed the text’s main font color from black to green—one of the last colors lost amid the aging eyesight’s color spectrum.

Benchmark welcomed new ideas for the reading series from staff, residents’ families and residents themselves—and the program quickly skyrocketed. As of August, the reading series tops more than 320 booklets, all of which have now been shared across Benchmark’s entire chain.