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Marin holiday lights tour brightens spirits of adults with memory loss

Marin holiday lights tour brightens spirits of adults with memory lossAdults with memory loss enjoyed socializing, family togetherness and some holiday cheer Thursday thanks to two San Rafael nonprofits that teamed up to put on a holiday lights tour, visiting some of Marin’s most dazzling displays at private homes.

“It’s really a special outing,” said Dana Pepp, the chief growth officer at Senior Access, a nonprofit that hosted the tour. “It’s a safe, supportive, fun, and comfortable space to be social.”

This is the second year that Senior Access has offered the holiday lights tour, which includes a visit to the famous Rombeiro house on Devonshire Drive. It’s a free outing designed to offer clients, who may not otherwise be able, to experience a drive through residential neighborhoods with family and friends to marvel at elaborate light displays.

The nonprofit provides day activities and outings for adults dealing with varying stages of memory loss, Alzheimer’s, dementia or related conditions. The day center on Skyview Terrace charges $125 per day for the outings or for supervised activities at the facility. Government assistance programs or longterm-care insurance pay for some clients’ participation, which allows caregivers a break.

Staff drivers from Whistlestop, the downtown San Rafael active aging center that offers athletic, social and cultural activities and organized trips and transportation for Marin residents over 60, volunteer their time for take Senior Access clients on the tour. Whistlestop has been providing transportation service for Senior Access activities throughout the Bay Area for more than five years.

Joe O’Hehir, CEO of Whistlestop, said he and the staff are glad to be part of the event.

“We’re certainly learning the power of human connection,” he said, calling it “an important ingredient in the antidote to loneliness and isolation.”

He added, “And our drivers, who are highly trained, sensitive and compassionate, become surrogate family members.”

Pepp said that one of the key contributing factors to memory wellness is social integration and social connectedness.

“Feeling connected, part of a group and being hugged daily is greatly important. It will improve their overall health and cognitive health,” she said.

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