magic moments

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MAGIC MOMENTS “There is still a person in there.” TR Program For Developmental Disabilities & Alzheimer’s Diseases

Magic Moments: 

Magic Moments Innovative Program of The Year 2004 New York Association of Homes and Services for Aging NYAHSA

Magic Moments: An Introduction: 

Magic Moments: An Introduction There is something enchanting about the Magic Moment’s program. Students with “special needs” are helping geriatric adults who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. This is a place where people with disabilities, both old and young, accept each other for who they are in a relaxed atmosphere without passing judgment.

Key Words: 

Key Words Breaking Down Barriers Collaboration Community Service Dignity Interdisciplinary Team Work Outreach

Magic Moments—McSweeney School Partnership: 

Magic Moments— McSweeney School Partnership A community partnership between an Occupational Training Center & a long Term care facility. The McSweeney OTC , Public School 721X in N.Y., prepares educationally challenged teens with mild mental retardation for the world of work.

The Magic Begins: 

The Magic Begins To improve the quality of life for residents with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. To provide developmentally disabled students with an opportunity to develop leadership skills and build self-confidence.

The Magic Begins: 

The Magic Begins A small group of students participated in art activities with residents living on an Alzheimer’s unit. Activities were led by recreation staff.

The Magic Begins: 

The Magic Begins We observed magic between the residents and the students. Students took on a leadership role within the group under the direction of their teacher.

The Magic Begins: 

The Magic Begins The students gently encouraged residents to participate fully in activities. The students’ enthusiasm helped the residents become excited and more involved in each session.

The Magic Begins: 

The Magic Begins Residents responded to the loving touch of these young people. The students gained more confidence when working with seniors.


Inspiration In the meantime, members of the Nursing Staff’s Lounge Interaction Committee went on a day trip to another long term care facility. Members came back inspired to enhance services for the Alzheimer’s unit.


Inspiration The Nursing Department contacted Therapeutic Recreation about developing a special program for residents with Alzheimer’s type dementia. The program would move the residents off their unit to a Common and provide a greater variety of activities.


Inspiration The program was designed to foster appropriate social functioning of residents with Alzheimer’s type disease. Program stations would be set up in the Community Hall. Nursing staff and recreation staff would be assigned to facilitate the process.


Inspiration To further enhance the initiative, students who had participated in the original unit program were integrated into the new program. Additional students are rotated into what now had become the Magic Moments program. The program includes five to eight students who assist recreation therapists and nursing staff twice weekly.

The Process: 

The Process The students’ role in the program includes setting up the room with games such as adaptive bowling, beanbag toss and art. The students model their interactions after the adults. Working as a team with the recreation and nursing staff, students co-lead activities, encourage residents to participate and serve refreshments.

The Process: 

The Process During each session, students help residents paint pictures, lead exercises or sit down for quiet, one-to-one conversations.

Activities that Promote the Magic: 

Activities that Promote the Magic Art –creative expression, sense of accomplishment, reduces anxiety and disruptive behavior Music-tranquility, elevates mood, feelings of well being, relieves pain Active games-reduce anxiety, promote socialization All these activities promote autonomy.

Activities that Promote the Magic: 

Activities that Promote the Magic Moving the program from the unit to the Community Hall opened up the program and allowed nursing staff, recreation staff and the students to work together as a team in an open area where there are enough “eyes ” to allow for a wide range of resident activities.


Innovation The Magic Moments program is original in that it blends two groups of people who are often marginalized or “invisible”. Special needs young adults and elderly people with mid-to-end stage Alzheimer’s-type disease. The Home took a bold step in bringing these two groups together and, in effect, putting them in the spotlight.

Benefits of Working with Developmentally Disabled Students: 

Benefits of Working with Developmentally Disabled Students Developmentally disabled students integrated into Magic Moments as leaders Non-judgmental reassurance for residents Re-channels problem behaviors into socially acceptable directions Students offer praise & humor

Positive Outcomes: 

Positive Outcomes The Magic Moments program is an inspiration to everyone at the Home. School staff who have visited Magic Moments have commented on the growth of the students.

Positive Outcomes For Residents: 

Positive Outcomes For Residents Clinical staff has observed a decrease in agitation and wandering, and an increase in attention span and sensory-motor function. With the change in environment, residents are more interactive and have a decreased level of anxiety.


Summary Magic Moments promotes and defends the dignity of residents and students. Residents are receiving individual and personal attention. The students are learning and growing in a supportive, structured environment. Staff creativity is enhanced. Fosters interaction with other departments.


Afterthought: Gleeful laughter is often heard during the program. This laughter permeates the building and it is surely a sign of a successful program.


Credits Written by: Aileen Jones Charles Sourby