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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Students Help Alzheimer Patients
by Indian Country Today Staff

The N’Amerind Friendship Centre, a First Nations Canadian organization that serves aboriginal communities in London, Ontario, is partnering with the Alzheimer Society of London and Middlesex, in order to preserve precious memories of the past and foster the Native storytelling tradition, the London Free Press reported. The Center is joining the Generation Link — a program that matches high school students with seniors suffering from early Alzheimer’s disease.

“The purpose is to increase the social interaction between the senior and the student through discussing favorite themes or parts of the senior’s past,” said Betsy Little, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of London and Middlesex. Students involved in the program will spend time with Alzheimer patients and record their favorite memories. At the end of the program, the teens present the memory books to their partners during a special celebration.

The initiative is met with warmth by the patients. According to Little, one of the patients was so excited about the memory books that he decided to create one for his wife and his children as well.

Anthony Isaac, a Generation Link volunteer facilitator, told LFP: “This is a crucial time in our era because the risk of losing our traditions, our culture, the language. A lot of this knowledge is being held with our elders and some of them are scared to share it because of residential schools and the fear that was instilled in passing on traditions and using the language”. Isaak hopes that the program will allow the elders to pass their knowledge to the next generation.

Generation Link’s approach is much different from way children are introduced to Alzheimer’s disease in South Korea. According to the New York Times, South Korea is “at the forefront of the worldwide epidemic of dementia”, and in order to prepare the young generation for interacting with their elderly relatives—and possibly, for their own future–a program called “Aging-Friendly Comprehensive Experience Hall” was introduced. As a part of this rather dystopian program, children had to “play old”. They put on weighted harnesses and fogged-up glasses, and were asked to perform various household talks.

Unlike this South Korean initiative, the Alzheimer Society of London and Middlesex and the N’Amerind Friendship Centre educate children not by making them feel old, but by promoting a dialogue between generations and sharing the positive experience.

The N’Amerind Friendship Centre in London is a non-profit organization committed to the promotion of physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual well-being of Native people and in particular, Urban Native People. They implement culturally relevant programs that focus on education, recreational activities, and leadership. According to their website, the Center’s goal is to increase awareness of Native heritage, establish resources for community growth, and promote the development of urban aboriginal self-governing institutions.

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