Living the Good Life: Sharla Lee

By / Posted on July 13th, 2016

Living

 

“Living the good life” is a blog series celebrating the lives of people living with dementia in Green House homes.  In Green House homes across the country, elders are creative, resourceful and whole people who have a valuable story to share.

 

Sharla Lee lived a colorful life as a performer, gracing many stages and breaking many hearts. Legend has it that she was even asked out on a date by baseball superstar, Joe DiMaggio. When cognitive impairment made it unsafe for her tshahbaz and elder standing and embracingo live on her own, this talented pianist may have faded away, but thanks to Baptist Retirement Community Green House homes in San Angelo, Texas, her star continued to shine bright.

Always the professional, Sharla would wake up at 5:00a every morning in her Green House home in order to practice the piano. She loved to play for the elders during the evening meal, choosing to eat later, after her performance. In Green House homes, the day is centered around the individual elders’ natural rhythms and preferences. The small size enableelder woman and child at pianos the home to run smoothly based on deep knowing relationships rather than task oriented schedules. As a musician, Sharla’s preferred schedule was different than that of others living in The Green House home, and by honoring that, her personhood remained intact despite dementia.
exercises_setting table

Sharla brought joy to others in The Green House home, through her music, and also by being an engaged member of the household. She was made an “honorary shahbaz”, the name given to direct care staff in Green House homes, because she was always willing to help by rolling napkins, setting the table and befriending the other elders in the home. Reciprocity, the ability to receive and also give care, is a key element of Green House homes. As humans, we need to feel a sense of purpose. It may seem like a simple thing, but the value of sharing your gifts with others is something that can’t be overstated.elder man and woman eating on terrace 2

elder woman reading curled in chairMae West once said, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Sharla Lee dazzled audiences in San Francisco supper clubs, on cruise ships and thankfully, in her Green House home as well. By knowing Sharla’s story, and creating opportunities for her to shine, her Green House family made sure that Sharla lived “the good life”.

 


Living the Good Life: Dr. Lemuel Rogers

By / Posted on July 5th, 2016

Living

 

“Living the good life” is a blog series celebrating the lives of people living with dementia in Green House homes.  In Green House homes across the country, elders are creative, resourceful and whole people who have a valuable story to share.

Dr. Lemuel Rogers

“Without connections to the world that nurtures our human spirit, we hasten decline” -Susan Ryan, Senior Director, The Green House Project
dr r portraitOur lives are a rich tapestry of interests and experiences, woven together across time.  Sharing and celebrating our unique stories ensures that our personhood is preserved, even as our needs change.  Dr. Lemuel Rogers, was the epitome of dignity; a dapper, intelligent man with a great smile and beautiful singing voice.  He was well known in the community as a respected doctor, and leader of his church.  Meaningful life is a core value of The Green House model.  The means that a person must be deeply known, and have the power to maintain their identity through connections and engagement.

For Dr. Rogers, that meant being respected and acknowledged for the expertise and reputation that took a lifetime to build.  In the home, he preferred to be called “Doctor”, and frequently perused medical journals with former St. John’s medical director, Al Power.  Staying connected to the community that he loved, shahbazim (care staff) supported Dr. Rogers to attend the annual African-American Health Symposium, a church event dr r fraternitydedicated to him and his wife, Gloria.  Being honored for one’s gifts is essential to living the good life.

Work hard, play hard.  Dr. Rogers was also an active member in his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. His fraternity brothers were frequent visitors at The Green House homes, bringing joy and beautiful music. Dr Roger’s loved to sing and was able to share his talents with others in his home.  See the below video of Dr. Rogers singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”.

 

Often, those living with dementia become known solely by their diagnosis.  The beautiful tapestry gets lost amidst the behaviors and medications. In a Green House home, however, the value is placed on WHO that person is, and WHAT will support them in living the good life.  Dr. Rogers was serious, but had a great sense of humor.  dr. r group shotYou really felt like you’d done something special when you made him laugh. When children would come to visit, he would shake their hands very formally when he met them and they loved it. His dementia was pretty advanced by the time he moved to The Green House home, but when a doctor talked with him, or his church or fraternity visited, he always sat up a little straighter, shone a little brighter, and rose to the occasion in conversation. The man just…exuded dignity.

 


Living the Good Life…How the Green House Model Supports People Living with Dementia

By / Posted on May 18th, 2016

“Some people discover their personal mission early in life. For me, decades of life experiences and events would eventually become masterfully woven together to reveal a tapestry of passion and purpose to make life not just worth living for elders, but to actually enable them to live the good life.”  

Susan-Frazier_8924The above quote is from The Green House Project Senior Director, Susan Ryan.  It’s how she chose to open her Ted Talk style presentation at the spring conference for the Association of Jewish Aging Services (AJAS).  Susan was one of many thought leaders sharing her personal experiences and passion for Elders and how every person should be “Living the Good Life”.  As you will see in the video below, Susan takes you on a journey that will introduce you to some special elders that touched her life and made her realize that life can be different!


 (The talk with Susan begins 39 minutes into the video)

We hope to provide a blog series in the near future entitled “Living the Good Life” based on the lives of other elders living in GH homes.