Susan Fodera leads a trivia game about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as part of the Alzheimer’s Longest Day events at Rose Senior Living in Novi June 20.

Susan Fodera leads a trivia game about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as part of the Alzheimer’s Longest Day events at Rose Senior Living in Novi June 20.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Novi senior facility spreads Alzheimer’s awareness on year’s longest day

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published July 1, 2024


NOVI — A heat wave nearly caused the cancellation of the annual Alzheimer’s disease Longest Day Walk June 20 at Rose Senior Living in Novi. However, thanks to the determination of Director of Life Enrichment Monique Furniss and her staff, the event was quickly rebranded to include a variety of indoor activities that gave residents and guests a better understanding of what it is like to have the disease.

Furniss said that at her previous job, they had kits available to help staff get a better understanding of the limitations and challenges the disease inflicts upon people. However, as there was not enough time to order the kits, they had to improvise and came up with their own versions of the various elements in the kits.

“We had 24 hours to figure out what to do without (residents) being able to go out there and walk. So, we just put our heads together and came up with the idea to do stations,” Furniss said. “We had no choice.”

“It was that or they wouldn’t do anything, and we wanted to make sure that they’re still engaged in activities and keep them stimulated,’ said Anabella Weiss, an intern at Rose Senior Living.

The event featured two stations that demonstrated some of the challenges that patients with Alzheimer’s face — depth perception and hand dexterity — an Alzheimer’s trivia station, a live band, dancing, food and drinks.

Many of the residents, including those in memory care, could be seen dancing to the music, which included popular songs from years gone by such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” and “Que Sera, Sera.”

“Our residents are actually getting to experience something that our memory care residents experience on a regular basis,” said Taylor Darby, executive director of Rose Senior Living.

To illustrate the issues that Alzheimer’s and dementia patients face with depth perception, participants attempted to throw a beanbag into a cornhole board while wearing glasses that covered one eye and then did the same task without wearing the glasses.

In order to show the struggles that Alzehimer’s patients have with hand dexterity, participants were asked to put on thick gloves and then try to button a shirt or turn a nob. Weiss said people really struggled with it, as do many people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“It was really interesting. A lot of people said they were walking away with a lot more empathy,” said Weiss, who is studying psychology at the University of Michigan. “Even a staff member said, ‘It was so much harder than I expected.’”

According to Darby, by reformatting the event and making it indoors, a lot of the memory care residents were able to participate in the event, and the event as a whole drew a larger crowd than the traditional walk around the grounds.

“It’s nice. I mean, we were actually looking forward to doing a little bit of walking, but it’s too hot out to do that,’ said Sheri Conder, of Northville, who’s mother-in-law, Connie, struggles with Alzheimer’s.

Conder said she likes all the different events that the facility puts on, but that this one is especially meaningful, as it helps to raise funds and awareness for the disease.

“Because it’s very genetic, I think we all could have that in the future, and I think it helps us learn things we can do to kind of cope with it and for (Connie), she loves the entertainment, she loves getting out and seeing all her friends that live here,” said Conder. “It’s good for people with Alzheimer’s to be social and to be out, and so this is a really nice opportunity to do that and know that the money that’s raised is going to support that disease and developments in helping prolong her life, help deal with all of that. So it’s just a nice event.”

“It was a great afternoon. I didn’t think I’d be sitting here singing Patsy Cline songs in the afternoon, but it was fun,” said Sheri’s husband and Connie’s son, Tim Conder.

Connie Conder said she “absolutely” enjoyed the event.

“Everything was special because it was for Alzheimer’s and it was trying to let people know what it is and how to make it better,” she said.

Rose Senior Living took up a collection prior to the event and presented a check for $4,113 to Kathleen Sable of the Michigan chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, during the event. The funds will go toward research on the disease.