“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
Our 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 dedicated 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. You 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.