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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A perspective on the present

Not a long time ago I listened to a program on the national radio about an elementary school which started a program (and it is also a study) with seniors living with Alzheimer. The seniors live in a housing community for retired people not far from the school. The medical staff decided to start sending a group of them to the elementary school to assist the children in different tasks, including helping them to read. The results are very interesting on both sides. The people affected by Alzheimer are improving because they see young children every day (who have no preconceived ideas about the disease), the seniors interact much more than usual and the children love to get some help and attention.

When interviewed, one of the seniors said she was really happy to help the children. She was talking on the spot about what she was doing. But then, she said that she does not remember anything when she goes back home, the following day is a complete new day, she does not even recognize the children sometimes, she does not remember good or bad behaviors, she does not carry any ideas in her head about this or that child. She just does what she enjoys doing. She knows she enjoys doing it when she is asked while doing it. Apparently the children are very happy to be helped and it does not matter to them that sometimes they have to repeat their names to someone they see every day.

One doctor was saying that the seniors participating in the program/study received awards at the end of the last school year. The woman who received the first award (she is the one who has spent the longest time in the school) said: “Why do I receive an award? For what reason?” And someone explained to her that she is the most dedicated helper at the school – but she does not know it.

I don’t know much about Alzheimer disease, I was extremely interested by that somehow optimistic program I listened to.

I was thinking about the people who are not affected by the disease (and this is linked to the previous post about Jill Bolte Taylor) : what if we could lift up the weight of all the past feelings we have, the weight of all the judgments, and the uninterrupted chattering of our brain which make us miss the most important thing we have: the present.

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