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New Sensory Room at Journey Senior Living of Merrillville Helps Jump Start the Senses for Seniors with Dementia


Memory disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can impact the brain and lead to personality, behavior, and bodily changes. Dementia closely effects how the five senses work, making it easy for impacted seniors to feel lost or disconnected from their environment.

The memory care community, Journey Senior Living of Merrillville is designed exclusively for seniors living with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. They offer an array of activities and amenities to stimulate the minds of their residents to foster a strong sense of community. Life Enrichment Director Kelsey Shaw coordinates scheduled activities and is constantly seeking new ways to engage Journey Senior Living’s residents. One of the newest additions is their Sensory Room, which is designed to help gently stimulate senses affected by dementia.

“On average, a healthy person touches 300 surfaces per half hour whereas someone with dementia, who may be confined to a wheelchair or lack the capacity to explore their surroundings fully, may only touch 30 surfaces per half hour,” Shaw said. “The whole goal of this room is to give them a ton of stimuli to get their senses jump started again.”

When you walk into the room, you’re met with a gentle wave of sights, sounds, and smells. Strings of lights line the walls. Fish float about in a quietly humming bubbly tube of soft light while bird calls ring out. A beacon illuminates the ceiling with a calming array of moving colors. A wand of long, glowing fiber optics is available to touch along with a small aromatherapy machine that releases soft scents into your nose.

Sensory rooms initially gained popularity from their prior success in helping children with autism or other special needs find focus and feel calm. After seeing some early success in experiments with seniors, memory care facilities began incorporating these rooms into their list of amenities. Journey Senior Living has reported decreases in unwanted behaviors, wandering, anxiety, and other common symptoms of dementia.

“Our residents are really enjoying it, we have a few in particular who weren’t doing much throughout their days. They were just kind of withdrawn,” said Shaw. “We brought them in here, and they played with the fiber optics and loved the bubbly tube. We have a couple of wanderers and bringing them in here decreased their want to wander.”

Most aspects of the room are adjustable, such as the colors of the lights or the sounds from the speakers. Some enjoy touching the different objects, while others prefer to take in the sights and sounds under a weighted blanket. Residents are also free to use the room with visitors.

“We’re really excited about it,” Shaw said. “These types of rooms are becoming more and more common in senior living. The benefits have proven to be really great for our residents, and we’re excited to keep building on the room.”

To learn more about Journey Senior Living of Merrillville, visit www.journeyseniorliving.com/merrillville.

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