So it was fitting when a group of children from Head Start danced with elders recently at the Riverside day center in Poplar Grove while trailing bright scarves and imagining themselves as beautiful birds seeking shelter from a storm. Together, the kids and adults lit up the room.
"Have a good day," Paul Halleck called to the children, waving his own scarf as the children lined up to shake their elders' hands.
Halleck is one of 20 clients whose families bring them to Riverside Cottonwood takes 16 clients where they get a homemade lunch while their caregivers, usually the sons or daughters who have taken them in, go to work or get a little time off from stress. The clients can take part in a full day of activities, including exercise, art, dancing and games designed to stretch their abilities and social skills and forestall the progress of Alzheimer's disease or other dementia.
While nearly all the day center clients have Alzheimer's, some have other brain injuries, Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis.
Their ages range from 42 to 94, with the average age about 74. Some of the clients have fallen at home.
All of them, said Riverside center administrator Kathie Williams, benefit from structured, supervised activity.
"I love the heart of this place, that it's a community," said Lyn Koshland, a social worker and dance therapist who has worked with Neighborhood House for 25 years. "It's so important, the inter-generational respect."
Neighborhood House started out more than a century ago as a children's learning center, a mission that still forms its core. Painful cuts in funding from Salt Lake County and the United Way mean it will have $135,000 less to work with next year, Brace said.
Neighborhood House remains committed to bringing its youngest and oldest charges together for mutual benefit, as with the hour-long dances scheduled every week.
"Our kids are comfortable with [the day care clients]," Brace said. "And the clients are getting contact they don't usually get."
Advocates say adult day care, which at Neighborhood House costs about $18,000 per year for daily use versus nearly $50,000 for assisted living, ought to be accepted into mainstream elder care.
But it isn't, even though the Utah Eldercare Planning Council has found adult day services to be an ideal caregiving alternative and a hedge against nursing-home placement.
Only three adult day centers operate in the Salt Lake Valley. Other day centers have opened and closed in Utah, said Nick Zullo, program director for the Utah chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.
But the Utah Senior Daycare Association has been abandoned due to lack of interest.
Which is unfortunate, advocates say, because the cost of spending six hours at a day center amounts to about 20 percent of what it would cost to hire someone to provide much more limited services in the home.
As a nonprofit with access to federal funding, Neighborhood House is able to charge day care clients on a sliding scale, with lower-income families paying less. "We are not going to shut down," over the recent local cuts, Brace said.
The big obstacle to broader acceptance of using day centers, he said, are stigmas attached to dementia and to asking for help in caring for aged loved ones.
"We need to get over the fear of saying the 'A' word," Brace said. As it is, he said, families come to the day centers two or three years later than they should have. "Their stress levels are off the chart. They cannot miss any more work. Their health is compromised."
Zullo expects to bring the issue of trying to revive interest in adult day enters to the new state Alzheimer's task force, enacted during this year's legislative session.
Centers offer variety of services
Neighborhood House runs two adult day centers to help families care for loved ones with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia. Fees are based on clients' ability to pay. The centers offer:
Door-to-door transportation throughout the Salt Lake Valley
Lunch made on-site
Dance, music, art and physical therapy
Fenced-in and supervised walking paths and gardens
O For more information, call 801-277-3264 or 801-363-4593.