Innovative Programming for Adults with Memory Impairment Gives Participants Purpose and Meaning

PHOENIX, Sept. 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Aging is inevitable for most of us but losing our sense of value and purpose is not.

Oakwood Creative Care™ and ALLE Learning™ have partnered for the past five years to develop an innovative memory care engagement program, EngAGE EnCOURAGE™. Their research sets a new standard for best practices in caring for adults with memory impairment by blending creative and expressive sessions with lifelong learning. The program enables participants to feel valued, loved and connected.

Family members who have seen the impact on their loved ones praise the program.

“Oakwood Creative Care has a program that actually helps improve brain function and mobility,” says Marsha Segler. “My husband has had an increase in cognitive improvement and in muscle control.”

Like many other providers, Oakwood has moved some offerings online to reduce health risk for clients during the pandemic. The classes still are having a positive impact.

“With this pandemic and having to stay home, my husband’s dementia was going downhill fast and he was so depressed,” says Joyce Leiske. “Even though he is quiet and sometimes dozes off, he looks forward to the classes and his confusion has improved. Even our son commented on how much better he seems to be doing.”

Sherri Friend, president and CEO of Mesa-based Oakwood, said when she took over management at the nonprofit program 8 years ago, “it was very institutionalized.” She patterned her approach to providing daily services at Oakwood from the model credited to Professor Thomas Kitwood at the University of Bradford in England. Kitwood advocates for person-centered care that recognizes all people have personal beliefs, life experiences, and relationships that matter to them and give meaning to their lives, regardless of how their memory functions.

Because that also is the core value of ALLE-Learning, the partnership between Friend and ALLE founder Jennifer Clancy evolved naturally. Their goal was to create better programs and classes for those in adult day clubs and adult living environments.

“The EngAGE EnCOURAGE™ curriculum focuses on using adult language, engaging the participants and their family members in familiar topics, and stimulating their creativity. Our goal is for them to have the best experience possible every day,” Friend said.

What Clancy and Friend have achieved is remarkable because within the industry the focus remains clinically driven.

“For whatever reason, if you have a dementia diagnosis, we were trained that you can’t learn, that you were just losing skills,” Friend says. “If you had dementia you could color, hold baby dolls, or watch TV all day. Our program takes things and turns them upside down. People with memory impairment still learn and still retain information. It just has to be done differently to help them be successful.”

For the past twenty years, scientists and researchers have searched to find a cure for dementia. During that time, much has been learned about our brains, including what works and what doesn’t. Clancy said research proves that the old “brain games” don’t move the needle. People continue to slide along the continuum, become less engaged with the world around them, and lose their ability to communicate their feelings or even their daily needs.

“While we can’t eliminate many of these outcomes, we can change what people with dementia experience daily. Using the proven theory that most people enjoy interaction with others, we have blended creative and expressive sessions with lifelong learning and developed a program that enables participants to celebrate lives well-lived,” Clancy explains.

She said EngAGE EnCOURAGE™ uses the same proven tools her company developed for independent and assisted living communities but zeros in on providing opportunities for recall and new experiences. “Every day, we see an image, a song, or a poem trigger long-forgotten memory,” Clancy said. “A class about Henry Ford leads to robust discussions & storytelling about first cars and learning to drive.” 


EngAGE and EnCOURAGE provides curriculum programs for use in adult settings, including Adult Day Clubs, senior living communities, and community-based programs. Each day participants have multiple opportunities to learn, create, and engage, enriching their lives and sense of wellbeing. Learn more by visiting


Jennifer Clancy

ALLE Learning

Rose Tring
AZ Media Maven



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