When I began my summer public relations (PR) internship at Charlestown, an Erickson Living retirement community in Catonsville, Md., I imagined I would enrich my PR experiences and skills. I never dreamed I’d walk away with such a wealth of knowledge on memory care, memory health and memory fitness.
With more than five million Americans now living with Alzheimer’s disease, the timing could not have been better to help raise awareness for the Charlestown’s Memory Support Program while raising funds for Alzheimer’s research.
As a fitness lover and former collegiate swimmer, I knew that Charlestown would be a perfect fit for the swim meet I envisioned. The community's state-of-the-art aquatics and fitness center, excellent memory support services and professionals, active and engaged residents, and leadership’s support would all help make the "Laps for Memory Fitness" swim-a-thon a reality.
After a lot of research and many meetings with members of Charlestown’s leadership and Memory Support Committee members, the full vision for the campaign evolved quickly. The more I engaged residents, staff and memory support professionals on the topic of memory health, the more I realized how memory fitness activities can help improve overall memory health. Perhaps most intriguing to me was the extent of research reflecting how diet and exercise can help people maintain mental vitality.
Once the recruitment of swimmers to participate in the meet was under way, I learned just how families have been directly impacted by loved ones with memory difficulties. I was baffled by the number of individuals who shared personal stories on the impact cognitive changes have made in the lifestyles of their parents.
I was even able to recruit two Baltimore celebrities to speak at the event who had family members impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. Both Debbie Phelps, mother of Michael Phelps, and former Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary were happy to support the event and speak about the importance of exercising to improve overall brain health.
In the end, the event raised approximately $2,500 and, perhaps most importantly, raised awareness of how exercise benefits cognitive health. I walk away from this internship not only wiser in my knowledge of the PR field, but also with a greater appreciation for the value of memory-care programs and services. It’s rewarding to have worked with a senior living provider who is already prepared for the wave of baby boomers that are entering their retirement years with a passion for living active and healthy lives.
Jessie Krebs spent the summer of 2014 working as a post-graduate public relations intern at Charlestown, an Erickson Living retirement community in Catonsville, Md.
Get the latest information on Alzheimer's and dementia, and attend other valuable sessions at this two-day event making education on the research, innovations, and program approaches to memory care a priority.