Adult daycare ensures it's members stay active
By Tammy Roberts
Staff writer Hometown News April 2007

   Karl Kreidler turned 100 years old on St. Patrick's Day. Just last week, he went bowling, played darts, did an hour of yoga and won a game of Big Buck Bingo - without giving it a second thought. "This place keeps us busy," said Mr. Kreider, who moved to the U.S. from Germany in 1927. "It is wonderful." Mr. Kreidler is one of a handful of members, aged 56 to 100, who stay active at the All One Family Senior Daycare Center on Merritt Island. "This isn't a place for people to come and sit around all day, waiting for the end," said Stephanie Licavoli, co-owner of the center. "We take a totally different approach to the way our members spend their time." The center provides transportation to and from the facility and is open every day, even on holidays. Mrs. Licavoli, who has worked in the elderly care system for more than 20 years, has experience in nursing homes, hospice organizations, Alzheimer's centers and as a private caregiver. "I volunteered for many years at different organizations and daycares," she said. "But eventually, I started to realize that I could do it better."

   Last fall, Mrs. Licavoli and her husband, Mike Licavoli, became licensed daycare facilitators, hired a staff of two full-time nurses and opened a private center off of North Courtenay Parkway. The facility is designed to provide adults with daily interactive activities and to give caregivers, who often don't realize the toll of their role as caregiver, a break from their daily lives.

   "It is so important they have socialization and activities that engage them and keep them involved, especially for seniors who are developing Alzheimer's or dementia," Mrs. Licavoli said. "They need to feel needed." Mrs. Licavoli stressed the importance of allowing these seniors to do the dishes at home, fold laundry, clean the windows or help rake the yard. "Sometimes you'll have to do it again, and they may forget 10 minutes later that they even did the task," she said. "But during that moment they feel proud to have helped you." "They may not remember it mentally," her husband added. "But we beleive the spirit remembers."

   The Licavolis apply this idea to their center, where there is a full calendar of events scheduled for every hour. The members participate in exercises for their bodies, as well as their minds, such as giant jigsaw puzzles, ring tosses, a parachute game, world trivia and yoga. They also have an activity called "Reminiscent Corner" where the nurses describe a place and year and the members recall what they can remember from that time.

   But perhaps the most engaging of the activities is "Armchair Travel." This is where the members cozy up on their chairs, grab a snack and watch a DVD that gives them a virtual tour of a different city or attraction. Afterward, the members discuss what they've learned and additional facts about the location. "Let's see, we've traveled to Paris, the Grand Canyon, up the Caribbean," said member Margaret Howard, 56, who was once a caregiver herself. "We've been everywhere." And a few times a month, the group goes on a trip to a different place in the community. They travel to stores, the museum, the library, and last week, they went to a Vegas-style arcade. "I won $67!" Mr. Kreidler said.

   It doesn't take long for the socialization these members develop to evolve into lasting friendships. A few months ago, sisters Regina "Queen" Mead and Margaret "Nurse" Holland decided to join the center together. This duo often serves as the entertainment for the group, especially when they start to reminisce about when they were growing up. "Now, this one, she is 10 years older than me," said Ms. Holland. "Once a liar, always a liar," her sister said.

   Nursing homes work well for many seniors, Mrs. Licavoli said, but the idea is to keep them active for as long as possible. Daycare centers, such as the Licavolis, are often a better economical option than nursing homes, and daycare members can choose to attend full time or part time. "It can really change their lives," Mrs. Licavoli said, "and give them a sense of belonging."