This lab happily has it right

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James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor
James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor

Of all the clever and eye-opening things encountered at the recent LeadingAge annual conference in Dallas, a particularly dear one was unfortunately tucked off to the side. Relatively few might have seen it. After all, we all could use more happiness in our lives.

The brainchild of public relations and media guru Stuart Greenbaum, the “Happiness Lab” was a welcome ray of sunshine.

It took attendees back to a simpler time, when they could write on walls and use markers to create drawings of things that make them happy. Family, friends, faith, fishing and a few shout-outs about Canada were just some of the heartfelt depictions drawn in bright Sharpie colors.

The giant 24-foot-by-10-foot graffiti wall was touching, as were the individual portraits. In fact, as soon as we iron out some technical wrinkles, we'll bring you a few views from the Happiness pavilion in this space. (Check back later today!)

Greenbaum says the Happiness Lab is designed to draw attention to the connections between creativity — especially as it flourishes within the uninhibited mind of individuals with dementia — happiness and health.

The concept is an extension of a creative arts appreciation model he introduced earlier in the year at several Northern California memory care communities. The work of participants in these initial workshops was showcased in an art exhibition titled “In the Mind of the Beholder,” which was displayed at the California State Capitol and local art museums.

That exhibit caught the eye of the right people at LeadingAge, who then pushed for the conference pavilion in Dallas. An estimated 400-plus attendees grabbed a marker to express themselves — and while I was happy to see that — it's a shame there weren't more.

Greenbaum Public Relations partners with Sacramento-based nonprofit Artisan Mind to conduct art sessions associated with the Happiness Lab.

The benefits are numerous. Start with the way it gives individuals living with dementia an entertaining and life-enriching experience. It's equally valuable to the aging-services organizations that sponsor the workshops. The public relations benefits include generating positive word-of-mouth among residents, family members and observers, while also distinguishing and marketing the community as creative and innovative. There's also the likely prospect of attracting a wealth of news media coverage, largely as a result of connecting (the incongruance of) dementia and memory care with creativity, happiness and better health.

“In other words, the Happiness Lab represents enduring, substantive value for aging-services providers – something particularly worthwhile in a time when the immediacy of occupancy concerns tend to otherwise rule the day,” Greenbaum points out.

Nothing would make me happier than to spread the good word about it.

Check out more about the Happiness Lab by downloading the attached flyer at the top. More about the Happiness Lab and potentially hosting it can be found by emailing Stuart Greenbaum.

James M. Berklan is Editor at McKnight's. Follow him @LTCEditorsDesk.

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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