The Brighter Side

School’s out for summer, but Sarina Helmer and Arlene Schmid will always be able to look back on the time they spent together.

Helmer, a recent graduate of Michigan’s Saline High School, spent part of her senior year putting together a living yearbook of sorts, an app-assisted video of Schmid’s life detailing everything from her days in the Girl Scouts to her life at EHM Senior Solutions’ Brecon Village.

The two were paired at the start of the school year through an effort aimed at bridging the technology and age divides. It was the latest outgrowth of an ongoing relationship between EHM and Saline Area Schools.

Over 60 days, students were expected to learn about dementia, interact with their residents and record their life stories and community landmarks important to their subjects. They also learned to use It’s Never 2 Late’s FOCUS platform, on which both residents and their families would be able to view the finished product.

Long after the videos wrapped and weeks since the school year ended, most of the groups remain in contact.

“Once they got to know their partners, they didn’t want to leave the project,” explained Denise Rabidoux, president and CEO.

Helmer is interning this summer at Brecon’s Memory Support Center and plans to attend Michigan State University to study social work this fall. She called the video-making program life-changing.

“This project is a great example of giving older adults a personal connection to technology,” Rabidoux said. “The experience also helped to push past the misconception that people with dementia are unable to engage in a meaningful way and maintain relationships.”

In the case of one resident who died after filming was complete, EHM was able to share the video and the student’s project notebook with surviving family members. All participant have ongoing access to the materials via iN2L.

“Our technology is really not the story,” iN2L’s owner and co-founder Jack York said in a video about the project. “Technology is simply an enabler, a tool that allows these kids to end up with relationships with people that they never knew and never thought they could experience.”

Rabidoux said EHM plans to connect a new batch of students and seniors next school year. A sequel everyone would like to see.