Too often the senior housing industry invites and encourages seniors to move into a senior housing community where they will be pampered and entertained to death.  This is a story of something very different.

The Los Angeles based photojournalist JonathanAlcorn watched as his father deteriorated and ultimately died from Alzheimer’s and he wanted to do something about it.  The fruit of this desire was an amazing initiative called “Silverado Life: A Thousand Words”.  Here is how it worked: The Set-up Jonathan gathered 4 other professional photographers and descended on each of the five Silverado  Memory Care Assisted Living communities in the Los Angeles area. They spent one to three days at each community working with the residents asking them to capture  the beauty of life, from their perspective.

Silverado Life, A Thousand Words Photo Show Jonathan Alcon, Loren Shook

The idea was, that the very best photos from each of the communities would be showcased in a special gala event at ThePerfectExposureGallery and the photos would be auctioned off to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. It took about 5 weeks to host photography days at each of the communities.  At the end of the process Jonathan curated the results by selecting 50 amazing photos that were mounted and framed for the September 27, 2012 event.  The gala was attended by the professional photographers, including the new “professionals” who live at the five Silverado communities, their family members, area healthcare professionals, local media and the general public, At the end of the evening almost all the photos were sold raising a total of $6,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association. What Makes This So Cool

  • It is a testament to the families,  public and staff, reminding them that despite the loss of cognitive abilities affected individuals are still people with a life worth living.
  • The focus was on what the residents can do, not on what they can’t do.
  • It allowed family members to see their mom or dad, aunt or uncle, or their grandparent as people and not something or someone to be pitied or afraid of.
  • The process of taking the photos and exhibiting photos were “here and now” experiences for individuals that have largely been written off.
  • The residents loved the experience of taking photos . . . and of being creative.
  • The residents loved seeing their personal works on display.
  • Because the event raised $6,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association, the residents and their families knew they were still contributing to society making it the perfect kind of senior event.

Ultimately what this event said to family, friends and the public was that being in a senior community, having Alzheimer’s, being in the last years of their life was not a “long goodbye” but was rather a “hello, I am in a new, different and valuable phase of my life”.   Here is a link to some additional photos Finally, if you have a great story about how you did an activity that engaged your residents and gave back to the community, we would be interested in talking to you about telling the story here. Steve Moran