Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, or about 21 percent of the U.S. population, are getting older. Some are still children to aging parents. As they age, the risks of developing dementia, which includes Alzheimer’s disease, doubles about every five years. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in six people over 80 have dementia. For every person diagnosed with dementia, multiple family members are impacted.
This is not a disease that individuals, families, or society can ignore.
“It’s a physical disease that presents psychologically and mentally,” said Mary Caldwell, director of a new innovative adult center called Town Square which just opened in Sandy Springs and that focuses on dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“Dementia is a broad umbrella term that encompasses changes in thinking and behavior that people notice,” said Caldwell, who formerly worked at the Alzheimer’s Association. She noted that Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.
Town Square is a 12,000-square-foot facility that resembles a mid-20th-century American town. It features 13 separate activity rooms that represent popular storefronts that existed during that era. The storefronts include a 1950s diner, aptly named Rosie’s, and fittingly displays several Coca-Cola signs, with Atlanta being home to The Coca-Cola Company, and Town Square sitting across the street from a Coca-Cola bottling facility.
Other storefronts include Starlite Theater with photos of Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, and others adorning the walls. There’s a music room called “Spinners” to engage members with nostalgic tunes, a health club featuring themed exercise classes, Ronnie’s Garage with a standout vintage bright red 1964 Ford Thunderbird, as well as a library, working hair and nail salon, craft room and recreation room that includes a pool table and board games. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.
“I dreamed of a resource like this when I was at the Alzheimer’s Association,” said Caldwell.
According to Atlanta native Sarah Stennett, one of the franchise owners, along with her husband, Kellen, also an Atlanta native, and her in-laws, Town Square is the first in Georgia to be grounded in reminiscence therapy, which is designed specifically to help individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The center leverages therapeutic reminiscing techniques and other interventions to spark memories and stimulate the mind.
“There’s a massive need of this service,” she said, noting that both her paternal grandmothers died of Alzheimer’s as well as both of her husband’s grandfathers. “This is why I was attracted to this concept.”
Reminiscence therapy reportedly has been shown to improve mood, communication and sleep quality as well as reduce anxiety, depression, and agitation in those with dementia. While there is no cure and no means to prevent dementia, reminiscent therapy “can potentially delay the progression and need for long-term care. It can prolong their happiness and self-esteem.”
“We are not an adult day care center,” emphasized Stennett, who also co-owns several Club Pilate studios in Atlanta. “We have elevated the dignity of adult day space. We engage them in multi-faceted exercises, yet there are many areas where they can chill and be alone. But it is mixed with socialization, which is a critical piece.”
We have elevated the dignity of adult day space. We engage them in multi-faceted exercises, yet there are many areas where they can chill and be alone. But it is mixed with socialization, which is a critical piece.
Both Stennett and Caldwell underscored their idea for Town Square to be a community resource for people with dementia as well as their caregivers, which Town Square refers to as care partners.
“We want to be an educational resource for the community,” said Caldwell, a former member of Temple Sinai when she lived in Atlanta, and Temple Rodeph Sholom when she lived in Rome, Ga. “We want the community involved.”
When someone is diagnosed with dementia, their lives become smaller and more isolated, she said. “There’s a stigma with Alzheimer’s and dementia, so when people need it most, they often lose their support system. It’s devastating and terrifying. People spiral into depression.”
Although Caldwell said that Jews aren’t at more risk for dementia, women, in general, are two-thirds more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. She added that “when a person becomes a care partner of someone with Alzheimer’s, their own risk increases six times due to the chronic stressors that affects all care partners.”
Starting the end of November, Town Square will offer an eight-week program on Alzheimer’s for care partners that will be free and open to the public. The facility will also be available for rent on evenings and weekends for special events including corporate meetings, birthday and anniversary parties and group visits from senior living facilities.
Town Square is already receiving referrals from Emory University’s Goizueta Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.
- Health and Wellness
- Jan Jaben-Eilon
- Baby Boomers
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Alzheimer's Association
- Mary Caldwell
- Town Square
- 1950s diner
- Coca-Cola signs
- Starlite Theater
- Audrey Hepburn
- Judy Garland
- John Wayne
- Marilyn Monroe
- Ronnie’s Garage
- 1964 Ford Thunderbird
- Reminiscence therapy
- Club Pilate
- Temple Sinai
- Emory University’s Goizueta Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center