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Sensory Stimulation Groups?
By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer
Why are they so necessary in
Alzheimer specific day centers?
I work in an Alzheimer specific day center. Each day
that I’m there, I spend two hours running what I believe
to be a very important group...a sensory stimulation
group. The majority of the members range from age
91-104. I’ve found that the group gives these elders a
place to express their frustrations, a place to interact
with others and have fun! I’m always amazed at the
outcome … usually members are more verbal by the time
the group ends.
What is a sensory stimulation
It is a special group led by a
facilitator who provides exercises which stimulate brain
function through simple tasks which involve the senses
of sight, touch and hearing.
How does stimulating the senses increase brain
During the first years of life, the
brain’s pathways and cells are “laid down” through the
interaction of the senses with the outside environment.
The senses are among the first brain’s activities and
the last to go in a person’s lifetime. Specific exercise
to actively engage the senses and both sides of the body
increase brain activity. Brain cells, unlike other cells
in the body, can live a very long time…some brain cells
can live up to 100 years. Although Alzheimer’s disease
is a degenerative disease, research indicates exercising
the “working parts” of the brain does have a protective
Why is it important to focus sensory activities
on both sides of the body?
The nerve pathways run “contra-lateral”
which means they run on the opposite side. For example,
97 percent of right-handed individuals are considered
“left brained” and visa versa … left-handed individuals
are considered “right brained.” Visual and auditory
stimuli are also processed contra-laterally. Engaging in
exercises which utilize both eyes, ears and hands ensure
an efficient way to stimulate both sides of the brain.
What sorts of exercises are done during the
The group starts with the facilitator
encouraging alternating handshakes with the members.
Other activities include carefully monitored interactive
ball play, activities with blocks, drawing and more
activities that encourage eye-to-eye and eye-to-hand
coordinating. During the last ten minutes of the group,
members are encouraged and praised for language
expression. The group includes music and at times
What are the goals of the
The intentions of these groups are to
work on: planning and problem solving, visual and
spatial reasoning, initiation, language expression and