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Montessori and the Elderly – NYT Article Comes Full Circle

From the New York  Times….

As many as 5.2 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s, including about one in eight people over age 65, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. This number will probably grow as baby boomers pass through their 60s and 70s. No drugs have been proven to do more than slow the disease’s progression. As the Alzheimer’s population grows, nursing homes and geriatricians are working to rethink the possibilities of life with the disease.

The Montessori-based programs for the elderly build on the work of Barry Reisberg, a New York psychiatrist who coined the term “retrogenesis” to describe the way the mind’s deterioration reflects its development: the first faculties to develop are the last to go. For instance, children around age 2 begin to understand their image in a mirror as a reflection of themselves, rather than a separate person; people in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s lose that distinction and are often frightened by mirrors, especially in bathrooms, where they think a stranger is watching them. Understanding this helps gerontologists recognize the problem not as random disorientation but as a predictable condition.

“We don’t say they’re crazy, we say this is where they are in the sequence,” Dr. Camp said. “The fix is that you put a window shade on the mirror. But you only come up with the fix if you say, ‘Why is this happening?’ ”

Similarly, just as physical skills and habits develop early, people with severe memory loss can often sing, read, manipulate a screwdriver or play a musical instrument even when they have difficulty maintaining a conversation. Montessori techniques build on these skills and habits, with the goal of …. [Read the rest here]