Jim Kenton has been a self-described “baseball geek” since the age of seven. He fondly recalls immersing himself in the world of baseball every summer of his childhood, glued to the radio listening to broadcasts of games, racing to collect the latest baseball cards and magazines. Over a lifetime, Kenton’s knowledge of baseball has grown so vast that now he is using it to give back through a truly innovative program. Beginning on May 18, Jim and the Alzheimer’s Association Capital of Texas Chapter will launch an effort to help people living with dementia reconnect with a lifetime of memories through conversations about a shared passion: baseball.
The program will provide a form of what’s called reminiscence therapy. While people with early stage Alzheimer’s may have difficulty with their short-term memory, their long-term memories remain intact for many years. Through guided, focused reflection on a beloved childhood pastime like baseball, people with Alzheimer’s can explore and enjoy early life memories and reconnect with their essential sense of self. Additionally, the group allows people to connect with supportive peers who share their interests, and can relate to the experience of memory loss.
Research into reminiscence therapy is very promising, and indicates that the simple act of sharing memories can have outcomes like improved mood, communication, and even functional ability. The practice can involve not only conversation, but interacting with sounds, smells, and sensory experiences that trigger long dormant memories. Luckily, as a member of the Society of American Baseball Research, Kenton has access to baseball memorabilia from the years of participants’ childhoods. He looks forward to sharing box scores from old newspapers, recordings and video of old games, baseball cards of the participants’ favorite players, and even baseball gloves and leather oil, so participants can relive the experience of breaking in a new glove.
The program will not only help participants reconnect with meaningful memories from childhood, but will also allow them to create new ones. The group’s meetings will culminate in a trip to the Dell Diamond on August 3rd to watch a Round Rock Express game from special box seats.
For Kenton, the program has special meaning beyond the game of baseball. “I lost my dad to Alzheimer’s about ten years ago. In reality, I lost him about thirteen years ago – I would visit him and, as often as not, he wouldn’t recognize me,” recalls Kenton. Throughout his father’s illness, however, Kenton was able to engage him through conversation about his experience in WWII, using a book of pictures as a guide. Having experienced the transformative power of reminiscence therapy firsthand, Kenton is proud to bring this group, which is modeled off of a similar program in St. Louis, to Austin.
The group is currently recruiting participants in the early stages of dementia with an interest in baseball. Meetings will be held on Mondays from 11:30am-12:30pm beginning May 18 at the Alzheimer’s Association Capital of Texas Chapter’s office (3520 Executive Center Dr. #140, 78731). Lunch will be provided. A pre-screening interview is required to participate in the program, please contact 512-241-0420 or [email protected] for more information and to schedule your interview.