The necessity and the social issue

People presenting aging symptoms at a younger age has become more and more common nowadays. This fact, combined with the increasing rate of degenerating brain diseases associated with aging, led us to the decision of developing a recreational program that will bring out one’s best self.

Brief history

Our first contact with the elderly and people living with some type of dementia took place back in 2013, through a social initiative in various nursing homes. In the following years, we started a research process aiming at the development of a method that concerns everyone, regardless of age or dementia stage, and which would be easily applicable to different groups in and out of nursing homes.

The “Connotation Thought Principle”

We observed that the elderly, especially those living with dementia, participated in the program more actively, noticeably and frequently, while showing signs of logical flow in their thinking, when the message was conveyed in the form of successive connotations, either verbally or visually, in each case combining two or more senses. 

Putting this observation into practice and changing the time gaps between the connotations, we noticed that the elderly, regardless of their mental state or experiential and social background, got involved more and more often in the activities, they socialized, and their mood improved rapidly.

Based on this observation, we continued to experiment during our frequent visits to seniors, both individually and in groups. In time, we developed our own theory, which is now called The Connotation Thought Principle, and which we keep on applying and evolving.

The thāllo method

Thāllo is a combination of recreational activities that take place using the Connotation Thought Principle. Indicatively, they include: Board games, Music, Musical-kinetics, Singing, Sensory memory, Cooking, Gardening, Crafts, the Isolated Listening Method and Virtual reality. These activities are introduced into each meeting separately, adapted to the dynamics and needs of each group of beneficiaries, and aim at their active –not passive– participation.

The objective is not only recreation itself but also the encouragement to create relations of trust and openness. Greater emphasis is placed on individual relations with the nursing home residents, while there is also a separate activity for the bedridden, a group that grows rapidly and we feel that we ought to evaluate its needs.  

To date the use of all the aspects of the thāllo method has shown significant results in the everyday life of the elderly and people living with dementia, such as:

  • Decrease of confusion
  • Stress relief
  • Reduction of mood swings
  • Soothing of the feeling of institutionalization
  • Avoidance or improvement of depression

Finally, it stimulates concentration and improves memory, two of the most essential mental functions.

 The use of the method on a regular basis is proven to smooth down the relationship of staff/caregivers and care receivers, as those trained in the new philosophy we propose, learn to adapt to a new form of communication with the people living with dementia.

Isolated Listening Method

Along with the main core of the method and closely tied to it, we use the Isolated Listening Method through which the elderly listen to selected musical pieces related to their social background. Indicative results of this approach – especially in people living with dementia – include the observation of movement patterns, the use of correct syntax and the reappearance of speech in patients that had gradually stopped speaking.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality technology is already used abroad as a tool that helps communication with people with severe cognitive and motor impairment, and it is proven to reduce certain dementia symptoms, such as stress, confusion and mood swings. In October 2018, thāllo introduced virtual reality technology to nursing homes in a way that didn’t discourage the beneficiaries, but as a supplement to thāllo. The results were encouraging, while in some cases people spoke or smiled and generally reacted in ways that had been considered as irrevocably lost.

Other initiatives and collaborations

Through a series of valuable collaborations and actions we have been working on our 5 main goals:

  • Changing the negative stereotypical image of the Third Age,
  • Enhancing the social health of the elderly and people living with dementia,
  • Informing and raising awareness on neurodegenerative diseases,
  • Gradually eliminating the stigma associated with dementia, and
  • Supporting relatives/caregivers of people living with dementia.

On this basis, we have designed and implemented various programs and activities for the elderly including people living with dementia, in collaboration with the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Basil & Elise Goulandris’ Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Chios Music Festival.

Moreover, within the same framework of informing the public and raising awareness, we have carried out a series of actions, such as:

  • An intergenerational program called rewind remind bringing together kids and elders inside nursing homes,
  • A theatrical play based on real stories of people with dementia we have met over the years that was also accessible to people living with dementia, and
  • An art auction with paintings on the subject of aging by artists and comic artists from all over the world.
  • A national support line for information and support of the elderly and people living with dementia, in collaboration with the Hellenic Initiative Against Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • A collaboration with the Metropolitan College of Greece in setting up an innovative program for caregivers of people living with dementia and health care professionals, designed by the Hellenic Initiative Against Alzheimer's Disease with valuable guidance by Johns Hopkins' professionals.

The interest shown by prominent Greek scientists from the Johns Hopkins University, U.S.A., in our work, that has grown into an active and fruitful collaboration, has been the culmination of our long-standing efforts, which have always been driven by our interest in our fellow human beings.

The future

Our vision is to make thāllo a beacon of valid information, activities and ways of relieving stress from caregivers/relatives, as well as a hub for exchanging experiences and practices among people seeking solutions for their beloved ones. This is why we carry on –as enthusiastically as ever– influenced by the very people who inspired this method and who remain our closest friends.

Since March 2020, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, our visits to nursing homes have stopped for reasons of safety, but thāllo is still carried out, equally effectively, online.

Visit the official website of thāllo and learn more about the program, our valuable collaborations, our future plans and the ways you can support our initiative.

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