Enriching Lives As We Age

Archive for the ‘Rosener House’ Category

Why sleep may be far more important than you think

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

November 10, 2015

Sleep could be the missing link in dementia

By Mark Taylor, Chicago Tribune


Mom was right. Getting a good night’s sleep may prove even more important to long-term health than our parents advised.

Scientists already have documented connections between sleep loss and memory problems, which explains why many schools are starting classes later. But a growing body of research is exploring links among sleep deprivation, sleep disturbance and Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

The number of Alzheimer’s patients is expected to double by 2020, due primarily to the increased longevity of the baby boomer generation. More than 50 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, which can be debilitating, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Poor sleep is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s patients, particularly those suffering moderate to severe forms of the cognitive disorder. Physicians treating Alzheimer’s patients say they often awaken in the middle of the night and wander or remain awake at night and sleep during the day. Researchers still haven’t established whether the poor sleep causes Alzheimer’s or is only a symptom of the incurable disease.

But Dr. Erik Musiek, an assistant professor of neurology who practices at Washington University in St. Louis, said there has been a paradigm shift in understanding the relationship between sleep and the incurable disease, which affects 5.3 million Americans.

He said scientists have known for years that people with Alzheimer’s have problems with sleep and disruptions in their circadian rhythms, which are governed by the internal biological clock that regulates the timing of periods of sleep and wakefulness. But he said new research suggests that sleep and circadian rhythm problems experienced earlier in life actually may contribute to the risk of Alzheimer’s and accelerate the disease.

Musiek said researchers have observed that sleep-deprived mice have greater amounts of beta-amyloid plaque forming in their brains. Beta-amyloid and tau are proteins that accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and are toxic to nerve cells. “We don’t yet know what kinds of sleep problems predispose you to Alzheimer’s. We do know that people who sleep too little or too much are at risk,” Musiek said.

Washington University’s center researchers are trying to understand how circadian rhythms control beta-amyloid levels in the brain, he said.”If we can give drugs that improve sleep and lower levels of beta-amyloid, maybe those patients won’t get those harmful plaques or get Alzheimer’s later in life. We’re looking at sleep as a potentially modifiable risk factor.”

Adam Spira, an associate professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, said research exploring the connection between sleep and Alzheimer’s has grown since 2009, when the key mouse study that Musiek described was published.

But in recent years, studies using wrist actigraphy — medical grade monitoring devices that monitor wrist movement during sleep — and polysomnography, the gold standard of sleep research that measures heart rate, blood oxygen and other measurements, have begun to examine links between disturbed sleep and Alzheimer’s in humans.  “Using these devices and other tools, including PET scans that measure the amount of amyloid in living human brains, researchers are finding those connections between sleep disturbance and the risk of cognitive impairment and decline, as well as Alzheimer’s and other dementias.”

He said that 2009 Washington University study findings were very exciting “because we saw the beginning of a causal link between sleep disturbance and Alzheimer’s.” He said his Johns Hopkins colleague, Dr. Mark Wu, recently showed similar links between sleep deprivation and amyloid deposits in a fruit fly model of Alzheimer’s, providing further evidence that sleep loss may contribute to Alzheimer’s.

Spira said the central goal of researchers right now is identifying ways to prevent Alzheimer’s. He noted that science has developed good treatments for sleep disturbances, and researchers are wondering whether treating disturbed sleep could prevent or delay Alzheimer’s. A 2013 Washington University study showed that people with less efficient sleep — those who spend smaller proportions of time in bed sleeping — tended to have more beta-amyloid in their brain, as measured in their cerebral spinal fluid.

“This was the first objective measure of sleep linking the amount of amyloid in the brain in people who are cognitively normal.”  Spira and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging conducted a study of 70 seniors in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging who reported their sleep habits. Using PET scans, they found that those reporting poorer sleep quality and shorter sleep duration had higher amounts of beta-amyloid in their brains than those who reported sleeping longer and better, he said. An ongoing longitudinal study hopes to explore whether disturbed sleep is associated with subsequent amyloid deposition, brain atrophy and cognitive decline.

“We don’t know whether there is a causal link. More research is needed,” he said, adding, “but sleep is gaining attention as a potential contributor to Alzheimer’s.” New research led by Dr. Maiken Nedergaard at the University of Rochester in New York state may lead to a different approach to treating Alzheimer’s. Nedergaard said sleep alters the cellular structure of the brain. Her lab discovered that the spinal fluid of mice swirled around their brains as they slept, functioning like a dishwasher.

“We found that in those mice beta-amyloid is efficiently cleaned out during the sleep process. This cleaning of the brain is a distinct function not compatible with wakefulness. Our hypothesis is that during sleep, our brains function as dishwashers to clean and clear out beta-amyloids. We observed that when we kept them awake, the spinal fluid did not flow back into the brain.”

Nedergaard said her lab’s findings may open new avenues for targeting and treating Alzheimer’s. She envisions a kind of “immunotherapy.” “I could imagine finding a way to enhance this dishwasher function that would wash away what (plaque) is already stuck there,” she explained, “but we’re a long ways away from that. For 10 years, science has been interested in finding ways to block beta-amyloid production but with little success. This suggests a new approach.”

Dr. Sigrid Veasey, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania‘s Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology in Philadelphia, said there is strong evidence to support the theory that Alzheimer’s can be worsened by sleep deprivation. Veasey said her lab has confirmed that chronic sleep loss causes direct injury to parts of the brain that play essential roles in attention span and memory consolidation. Veasey’s lab is studying whether those injuries could shift the course of Alzheimer’s.

“We don’t yet believe that sleep loss causes Alzheimer’s,” she said. “But if you were predisposed to get it at 85, it’s possible that sleep disturbance might make it likelier that you would get it much earlier, at age 65 or 75.” Veasey said her lab used mice as stand-ins for people constantly scheduled to perform shift work. Over a four-week period, she noted, the sleep-deprived mice lost neurons. And she said those injuries can accelerate beta-amyloid production and cause increased inflammation in the brain.

And she said examining self-reported data from patients enrolled in long-term studies has shown that years of chronic sleep loss have had an impact on cognition. Veasey predicted that researchers are three to four years away from developing molecular models for humans.  “I think we’ll move relatively fast with the luxury of animal models, fruit flies and mice and get to the bottom of this mechanism quickly.”

Healthier sleep means healthier brains

To enhance the health of sleep, get regular aerobic exercise, eat a healthy diet, avoid alcohol, and don’t eat or drink too soon before going to bed.

  • Exposure to light, even from television and cellphones, can impact circadian rhythms and confuse the brain and your body clock, so eliminate as much light as possible in your bedroom.
  • Take sleep seriously.
  •  Organize your next day before going to bed. Look at the humidity and temperature of the room, and adjust accordingly.
  • Cooler is generally better than warmer.
  • If you wake up frequently at night, try to write down your habits and think about what you’re doing, whether it’s napping during the daytime, awakening too early or some other cause. Examine your sleep positions.
  • If you have trouble sleeping attributable to sleep apnea or poor breathing, see a physician.
  • Don’t stay up too late. Aim for a consistent bedtime in a dark room. Bright light in the morning resets your circadian clock, so upon waking, open the windows and turn on the lights.
  • A calorie-rich breakfast helps synchronize your body clock.

One couple’s struggle

Barb Ziemba said that when her husband doesn’t sleep, she doesn’t sleep. Ziemba, 69, of Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood, is caretaker for her husband of 50 years, John Ziemba, 75, a former design engineer diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease four years ago.

“He sometimes awakens in the middle of the night, turns on the lights in the kitchen and bathroom, and tries to start his day,” she said. “I wake up, take him by the hand and lead him back to bed. It disrupts my sleep more than his. I try to catch a nap during the day, but often I can’t and just have to keep going.”

Sometimes, the mother of four said, caring for her husband “is like having a 180-pound baby.” Ziemba, who lost her job with a health care real estate investment trust in 2008 and now cleans homes for extra cash, said she can’t afford to go without sleep. Her husband is one of an estimated 5.3 million Americans afflicted with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. Most of them — 5.1 million, or 96 percent — are age 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Physicians treating Alzheimer’s said that in the moderate or severe stages, patients often sleep poorly, awakening in the middle of the night and wandering, or remaining awake at night and sleeping during the day. “If I’m taking a nap and no one else is home, there is an issue of safety, because I don’t know if he’ll roam the streets,” Ziemba said. “So I always have to be on alert, and that’s very stressful.”

Sleep deprivation and disturbed sleep have long been associated with Alzheimer’s and are among the leading reasons for the families of Alzheimer’s patients to seek nursing-home care, said Theresa Dewey, a licensed clinical counselor and care navigator with the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter at Alexian Brothers Neurosciences Institute’s Memory Disorders Center in Elk Grove Village. Dewey said failure to sleep is one of the top complaints from caregivers.

“They wonder how they can function and continue to care for mom or dad if they’re not sleeping and keeping everyone else awake,” Dewey said. “Their days and nights become flip-flopped.”  Dr. Concetta Forchetti, a neurologist with Alexian Brothers Neurosciences Institute, said many Alzheimer’s patients have sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that causes sleep disruptions.  She said studies have shown people with sleep apnea who average less than six hours per night have a higher risk of developing cognitive impairment.

“When they do awaken at night, it is dark, and there are noises, so some become agitated and frightened. It’s a serious problem often making it unsafe for them to be at home. The reversal of the day-night cycle is common.”  Forchetti, who has treated Alzheimer’s patients for more than 26 years, said falling asleep usually isn’t the problem; it’s having interrupted sleep.

Forchetti said researchers understand that sleep has a restoring function.  “Biologically we don’t still have a comprehensive explanation for why we sleep. This is still an understudied territory.”  But answers can’t come fast enough for Barb Ziemba.

“It’s disheartening,” she said. “It’s scary how many people have Alzheimer’s. And its impact on families can be devastating.”

Sources: Alzheimer’s researchers Maiken Nedergaard, Sigrid Veasey and Erik Musiek.


Rosener House Walkers Tops in Fighting Alzheimers

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Ranked the top fund raiser in California and #12 in the entire nation, Peninsula Volunteers “Rosener House Walkers” team gathered at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Great Meadow on Saturday, September 19th, for the annual Alzheimer’s Association “Walk to End Alzheimer’s®” .

Participants in the walk included members of the Peninsula Volunteers, Rosener House staff members, Rosener House participants and their families, and supporters.  Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

For more information, contact Barbara Kalt at PV Rosener House Adult Day Services, 650-322-0126 or www.peninsulavolunteers.org.

Aging in America, Through Immigrant Eyes

Monday, August 17th, 2015

by Chris Kenrick , Palo Alto Online
Monday, August 10, 2015.

In this book on aging, Stanford geriatrician, and his biologist wife, share observations that Americans can learn from more “traditional societies” around the world when it comes to the treatment of older people, says Mehrdad Ayati, a Stanford University geriatrician, who grew up in Iran.

Arriving in the United States with a newcomer’s eyes a decade ago, Ayati was struck by how, in contrast to his homeland, Americans appeared to view aging with fear and shame.

“This is a very youth-oriented, anti-aging society,” he said. “That’s why a lot of older people won’t ask for help, won’t walk with a walker or a cane or get a hearing aid.   “In traditional societies, this is not the case. Aging is always a sign of honor, and the oldest person in a family gets a lot of respect and is considered very sage their words carry a lot of substance. A young person would never get the message that ‘When I get older I’m going to be useless.’”

Negative cultural attitudes toward aging could even explain the loneliness and isolation leading to cognitive impairment that he observes in some of his geriatric patients, Ayati suggests.   “In traditional society, the oldest person is still at the center of the family and society,” he said. “The problem I see here is that when you retire in modern society, you retire to the solitude of your home and, if your partner passes away, you’re just by yourself. And loneliness is one of the major causes of cognitive impairment.”

The importance of social engagement for older people is a recurring theme in the book “Paths to Healthy Aging,” which Ayati recently co-authored with his wife, physiologist and molecular biologist Arezou (Hope) Azarani.   “When people ask me what’s the best climate for elderly people, I say, ‘The best climate is to be surrounded by people who love you and support you,’” he said.

Ayati and Azarani created “Paths to Healthy Aging” in the form of a workbook, each chapter beginning with a list of “questions to ask yourself” and ending with a “take-home message” and an “action plan.” Chapters cover nutrition, mental health, frailty and overmedication.

It’s not unusual for an older person to be taking as many as five to eight medications a day for conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as diseases like diabetes, arthritis or congestive heart failure, Ayati said. Many also take over-the-counter supplements. At the same time, older people are more prone to the side effects of adverse drug interactions.

He cites the example of a patient who suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage following a fall Ayati believes was caused by overmedication a prescription for a cholinesterase inhibitor to treat mild short-term memory loss combined with strong sleeping pills that were added after the patient complained that the cholinesterase inhibitor was causing him to have vivid dreams. When stronger sleeping pills were added, the vivid dreams became delusional-like thoughts, nighttime anxiety and nightmares.

Ayati advises patients to keep an up-to-date list of all illnesses and medications, including dosages, and share them with all physicians and pharmacists; and also to question physicians about any newly prescribed medication and its possible interaction with other drugs.   “Take only what (medications) you truly need,” he said. “Any therapeutic benefit can be outweighed by the potential for drug cascade syndrome (when an undesirable side effect is misinterpreted as a medical condition and results in a new prescription) and other harmful interaction effects.”

Ayati is skeptical of over-the-counter medications, supplements and herbal remedies.   “Supplements can’t replace proper nutrition and should not be taken unless a blood test analysis ordered by your physician justifies prescribing them,” he said.   Most people should be able to get adequate vitamins, including vitamin D and calcium, from food rather than supplements, he said.

Geriatricians are trained to understand the physiology of aging and the medical complexity of the aging process, he said.   “We’re trained to be a good listener, and also to try to find the best way not to make a case more complicated,” Ayati said.

He embarked on the book when he realized the 20-minute office visit was too short to cover everything he wanted to communicate to patients. “They leave my office and they get bombarded by contradictory claims, marketing campaigns and misinformation” about nutrition, vitamins, supplements and brain games, he said. “The way we wrote the book is very simple; we tried not to put any complexity in it so that any person with any level of education can get the message.”

For exercise, he recommends “strenuous” strength training with weights and resistance bands, pushups, pullups and situps at least twice a week, as well as balance training, such a walking backward or sideways or Tai Chi at least three times a week. On diet, he advises people to eat “nutritious foods in small portions more frequently and in good company.”

But Ayati returns, repeatedly, to the value of social interaction for healthy aging.   “You can have the best cheese, the best wine, the best Mediterranean diet and the best olive oil, but if you’re in the solitude of your apartment looking at the window it’s not as beneficial as eating with others,” he said.

He said he frequently sees depression and memory loss among his immigrant patients who have been brought here by their children and spend their days caring for grandchildren.

“Their quality of life is actually worse here because they left behind the social network of their home country,” Ayati said. “You need to have interactions with people of your age and cultural background.”

But “aging can actually be a time of growth and development” for people who keep up friendships and have a positive attitude, he said.

“One of the book reviewers got back to me and said that after reading the book she called her husband because she wanted to ask him, ‘How many friends are we going to have when we retire?’”

Contributing writer Chris Kenrick | ckenrick@paweekly.com.

Peninsula Volunteers Receives two Grants from Sequoia Healthcare District

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

July 1, 2015-Menlo Park, CA—Two grants totaling $155,00 have been awarded by the Sequoia Healthcare District today to Peninsula Volunteers, Inc. for its Meals on Wheels (MOW) program and Rosener House Adult Day Services.

“These two generous grants will help us continue to fund our hugely successful Meals on Wheels program and our Rosener House Adult Day services, which provide activities and care for people in the community suffering from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, dementia, or other age-related physical or cognitive conditions,” says PVI CEO Karae Lisle. “Funding for these two programs has become critical as the baby boomer population continues to transition and rely more heavily on these support services.”

PVI’s Meals on Wheels was awarded $90,000 for daily meal delivery to disabled or homebound seniors in South San Mateo County. Every day, Meals on Wheels drivers deliver more than 300 hot, nutritious meals to the doorstep of those who are unable to cook for themselves.

Rosener House Adult Day Services was awarded $65,000 to support the adult day care program, serving people with memory and physical challenges, which prevent premature hospitalization and institutionalization for seniors. Rosener House provides a safe, lively day program of therapeutic activities, cultural activities, and health and support services; all in a caring environment that is active and emotionally supportive to participants and to their families.

There are more than 30 local non-profits and government organizations serving Peninsula residents that received Caring Community Grants. The Caring Community Grants benefits the entire population by helping to create a healthier community. This is the 13th grant cycle for the Caring Community Grants, which in total district grants and programs directly benefit at least 30,000 residents per year.

“Since 2001, we have partnered with Peninsula Volunteers, Inc. to provide important health care services to older adults.” says Lee Michelson, CEO of the Sequoia Helathcare District. “We value the quality of their effort and their commitment to offer outstanding programs and services.”

This year’s funding represents about 60,000 residents that would otherwise not receive healthcare, the hungry and homeless of all ages. Sequoia Healthcare District’s more than $10 million in total community support, but has an outsized impact on the district’s most vulnerable populations – homebound seniors, infants and children. 

About Peninsula Volunteers

For 66 years PVI has created and provided high quality and nurturing programs for the aging on the Peninsula. PVI provides programs, support and guidance for seniors in the community to allow them to pursue long and useful lives. Each year PVI provides over $5 million in services, including over 130,000 hot meals to seniors and the homebound, and impacts over 4,500 households through its programs: Meals on Wheels; Little House, The Roslyn G. Morris Activity Center; Rosener House Adult Day Services, and the majority of the affordable senior housing in Menlo Park at Crane Place and Partridge-Kennedy Apartments. www.peninsulavolunteers.org


About Sequoia Healthcare District

Sequoia Healthcare District provides major funding to numerous non-profit community health organizations that directly assist more 40,000 women, children and seniors in the district, which includes the cities of Atherton, Belmont, Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Carlos, Woodside, and portions of San Mateo and Foster City from Skyline Boulevard to the Bay. www.sequoiahealthcaredistrict.com

Young Volunteers Spend Summer Break Partnering With Older Adults at Rosener House

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Volunteer Kimberly Giang, 14, works with Rosener House clients in the art room at the adult day services center in Menlo Park. Rosener House, which offers therapeutic services to a generally older audience suffering from chronic conditions, is a branch of Peninsula Volunteers Inc. (Kevin Kelly / Daily News)

Friday, July 17, 2015 | By KEVIN KELLY. Daily News Staff Writer

A local organization is helping bridge the divide between young people and older adults.

And for at least one high school-aged volunteer, it’s helped her establish a more meaningful link with her own grandparents.

“Coming here taught me something about elders and how … to have a better connection with them,” Kimberly Giang, 14 — who isvolunteering a whopping 32 hours a week over the summer — said Tuesday at Rosener House in Menlo Park. “There’s a differentway to talk with them. …. Sometimes you have to engage the conversation and I’d never really tried that with my grandparents.”

Rosener House, a branch of Menlo Park-based Peninsula Volunteers Inc., offers adult day services for a generally older populationsuffering from chronic conditions. Rosener, which works primarily with clients experiencing dementia, employs physical, speechand music therapists.

Peninsula Volunteers CEO Karae Lisle, who said the organization has a pool of roughly 2,000 volunteers, 20 percent of whom are youths, is particularly fond of Rosener’s music program, in which each client receives an iPod shuffle into which the family or caregiver helps program familiar songs.  “Music is unlocking,” said Lisle, adding that “We have a music and memory program, which is one of the more innovative.”

One volunteer working toward a career in music therapy said that before coming to Rosener she was set on working with children, partly because she had no experience with seniors. Her grandparents died before she got to know them.

“I didn’t think I would know what to do or how to act when I was around them, because I didn’t have that experience,” said Rebekah Steiner, 19, a Redwood City resident on summer break from University of the Pacific in Stockton. “They really help you out here and show you what to do, and the participants are all really friendly. Not all of them are as talkative as others … but they will engage you in conversation.”

The irony is that Steiner’s interest in music therapy was sparked after reading an article about stroke patients who were regaining their speech through the use of singing and music therapy.  “That was the first time I’d ever heard of music therapy and I just thought that was the coolest thing, because I love music and I love helping people, and it just felt right,” she said.

Added Lisle, who started working with seniors when she was in the Girl Scouts, “I think the benefit … is that seniors get to see what the next generation is coming up with (and) being with young people makes them feel younger. … I think the benefit for youths is that they get to understand more about the world.”

Pooja Goel, 16, of Palo Alto, who has volunteered at Rosener since the eighth grade and was recently featured on the Peninsula Volunteers website, might have expressed best the rewards of intergenerational connections: “I can honestly say that becoming friends with (older adults) has been one of the most eye opening experiences in my life. I have heard war veterans talk about their pain in WW2, and I have heard someone tell me about their journeys as a former journalist. Although many of the participants have dementia, they are always willing to have a good time. Seeing them get so excited for the littlest things in life has allowed me to look at the brighter side of things.”

Aside from Rosener, Peninsula Volunteers operates Little House, a community center for older adults, a Meals on Wheels program and Peninsula Volunteer Properties, 123 affordable housing units in Menlo Park for seniors.

Where the organization currently has the most need for volunteers is Meals on Wheels drivers, as the coverage area is expanding north from the Highway 92 area toward Millbrae. Karae said Facebook recently donated $2,500 to the Meals on Wheels program, but it still has a funding gap, given that it issues about 300 meals a day and the federal government only covers about 43 percent of the cost.

From 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, Rosener holds a free caregiver support group to allow families considering adult day care to “come and meet other family members caring for their loved ones facing challenges and limitations … to share experiences and feelings, exchange information and discuss different coping styles.” For more information, call Florence or Kathi at 650-322-0126.

Erika Buck, senior engagement strategist at Rosener House, said she is hoping to start a different type of group at the facility — teens sharing their experiences volunteering with older people with others their age.

“I’m really wanting to create a teen-type volunteer tourism program to really help the two generations, that intergenerational connection,” Buck said.

Email Kevin Kelly at kkelly@dailynewsgroup.com or call him at 650-391-1049.

Teens Make a Difference at Rosener House

Thursday, July 16th, 2015





by Cristian Ponce

Rosener House in Menlo Park has created an outlet for teenagers to help their community.  This adult day care home has given teens the opportunity to interact with adults who suffer from conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“It’s really a good experience for them because they get to see older people who have some problems associated with growing older,” says Barbara Kalt, director of volunteers for the Rosener House.

Lorenzo Sison, a student at Bellarmine College Prep, started volunteering at the Rosener House to fulfill his community service requirement but after some time realized what troubles the patients were really going through.  “One guy I was talking to said he used to work at NASA,” says Lorenzo. “Now he’s in a place where he can’t really remember. A lot of them are in pretty tough places.”

Lorenzo says he loves putting smiles on the faces of the patients, even if it is only temporary.

“I think it’s super rewarding that you can be that person, at least just in that moment,” he says. “It makes me feel good that I’m impacting the people’s lives there.”  Ms. Kalt notes says they love all of their volunteers and mentioned that the volunteer who has kept coming back the most has been Pooja Goel, a senior at Castilleja.

“She is a remarkable young woman,” Ms. Kalt says. “She tried to think of things she could do to help us fundraise. She had a bake sale at school and she raised money for us. It’s something that most teenagers would never even think of, I’m sure.”

Pooja began volunteering at Rosener House in the summer of 2011 after she finished eighth grade and her mother insisted she get out of the house to do something productive. She quickly fell in love with going there.

“I just felt really attached to the staff and how much they cared about what they did,” Pooja says. “Once I started interacting more with the seniors and talking to them, it was something I never experienced before. Even though they didn’t necessarily remember me, they had so much to offer. I’ve learned so much from them.”  She attributes her interest in volunteering at Rosener House to her grandfather, who had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.  “He passed away when I was in fourth or fifth grade,” she says. “Originally I didn’t want to volunteer because there were seniors losing their memories, but once I started looking into it and saw what my grandfather had, it definitely played a part of it.”

She started a club at her school this past academic year with the purpose of bringing more volunteers to the Rosener House.  Last summer, she says, she spent nearly every day for three months at Rosener House. “I was learning so much. That’s when I realized that I wanted to share this with others.”  Rosener House is at 500 Arbor Road in Menlo Park. Call (650) 322-0126 for more information.

Student beats summertime blues at Rosener House

Monday, June 1st, 2015
Pooja Goel, 16 and a student at Castilleja School in Palo Alto, has been volunteering at Rosener House Adult Day Center since she was in eighth grade.

Rosener House, a program of Peninsula Volunteers, Inc., is a model adult day program that provides therapeutic activities to older adults facing challenges and limitations including Alzheimer’s and other dementia, early memory loss, stroke, as well as other chronic conditions. What began as a parental directive became passion for the honor student who started a club specifically to benefit the Rosener House participants. On any given Wednesday, the students can be found helping serve lunch, working on art projects and in general helping the participants enjoy their Rosener House experience.


Here is Pooja’s experience in her own words: I started volunteering at the Rosener House when I was in 8th grade. My mom was tired of seeing me sitting around at home all day during the summer, so she forced me to look for something better to do with my time. I searched up “volunteering opportunities” in the bay area, and came across the Rosener House. The first day I arrived, I sat in a room and put letters into envelopes for a mass mailing; it wasn’t nearly as exciting as I thought it would be. I was disappointed to hear that I wouldn’t be able to interact with the seniors as I hoped, but nonetheless, I came back the next day. I started coming in more and more, and I got to know all of the staff members. They all were so passionate about what they did, and I learned something new every day. Pretty soon it didn’t matter whether I was filing or entering in data in the computer, because I knew that I was making a difference in the lives of others. Before I knew it, I was able to interact with the participants, and I can honestly say that becoming friends with them has been one of the most eye opening experiences in my life. I have heard war veterans talk about their pain in WW2, and I have heard someone tell me about their journeys as a former journalist. Although many of the participants have dementia, they are always willing to have a great time. Seeing them get so excited by the littlest things in life has allowed me to look at the brighter side of things. I cannot even imagine how hard it must be for them to not be able to remember the details in their life, but they still make the best out of every situation. This year I started a club in my school and we come to the Rosener House almost every Wednesday to do various activities with the participants. I wanted to share my experiences with others, and allow them to form the amazing bonds I did. Everyone absolutely loved it, and we look forward to continuing our partnership next year!

For more information about Peninsula Volunteers, Inc., Rosener House, visit www.penvol.org or call 650.322.012

Castilleja high school students visit participants at Rosener House Adult Day center. They belong to a school club that supports Rosener House

Sam’s Story

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Sam is a World War II veteran who worked as a barber on the Peninsula for over 40 years. He is incredibly social, enjoying music, storytelling, and dancing—all with friends—well into retirement. In 2008, Sam was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He continued to live by himself until 2009 when he fell and hurt his shoulder. With the help of his family, Sam moved into a residential care facility because he required 24-hour assistance.

While his basic needs were being met at the residential facility, Sam’s disease progressed and his memory continued to deteriorate. His daughter worried that his overall quality of life was suffering without the social engagement and intellectual activities he so enjoyed. That’s when the Veterans Administration referred Sam to Peninsula Volunteers and the Rosener House Adult Day Services program.

Seven years later, Sam has thrived at Rosener House. Still suffering from limited mobility in his shoulder from his fall, Sam received physical and occupational therapy at Rosener House; where he once needed help standing up from a chair, today Sam is able to get up and walk around on his own.

Over time, as his strength increased, Sam began to participate in more of the Rosener House social activities. His favorites are singing, dancing, and the Music and Memory program. His personalized playlist includes Elvis and The Beatles. He has made friends at Rosener House, and enjoys having a full social calendar again.

Over the years, Sam’s strength and mobility have improved because of his supportive care at Rosener House, but his age and diagnosis continue to run their course. His daughter is most grateful for PVI services, as she credits Rosener House staff and playful activities with slowing the progression of his disease. Had Sam not been a Rosener House participant for the past seven years, his condition would likely have declined more rapidly and he would have needed to move to a skilled nursing facility.

Thanks to Rosener House, Sam has the opportunity to make the most of each and every day.

My father is provided with the physical activity, social interaction, and mental stimulation at Rosener House, not provided at his  residential facility. I work a hectic schedule, but knowing he is receiving such great care allows me to focus on my job, and to know that my dad is active and well taken care of during the day. — Sam’s Daughter

…and the award goes to

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Mila Leonardo and Shanah Hawk, activity leaders for Peninsula Volunteers, Inc., Rosener House, are the 2015 recipients of the Roos-Kates Care Awards. Each year the awards are given to two Rosener House staff for their outstanding work and care of participants with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.  Top left, Mila is congratulated by Gene Kates and on the right Shana receives flowers from Deborah Streiber.   Bottom photo: Standing are Rosener House Director Barbara Kalt, Shanah Hawk, Mila Leonardo and Karae Lisle, CEO of Peninsula Volunteers. Sitting are Gene Kates, John Kates and Deborah Streiber.

The award was originally conceived and endowed by Patricia Roos Kates, who recognized that people with Alzheimer’s disease were often misunderstood. She decided that rewarding and encouraging the special efforts of health care professionals of people with Alzheimer’s was a remedy.

Mila and Shana received the awards at very special ceremony on February 24, 2015, at Rosener House.

Rosener House certified as a Music & Memory Provider

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Music & Memory is an innovative program that lifts the spirits of the older adults by bring personalized music to them through digital technology, vastly improving their quality of life. Rosener House in Menlo Park is the first adult day program on the San Francisco Peninsula to be certified as a Music & Memory provider.