ERS’ Center for Memory Support & Inclusion adds fun dementia programs

ERS’ Center for Memory Support & Inclusion adds fun dementia programs

ERS’ Center for Memory Support & Inclusion adds fun dementia programs

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Episcopal Retirement Services’ Center for Memory Support and Inclusion had another year of significant expansion during 2023.

The center built upon prior successes of its With Art in Mind program at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati Art Museum, by adding the Taft Museum of Art and the American Sign Museum in 2023.

Another fun program, Dancing to Remember at A-Marika Dance Company in Sharonville, continued in 2023.



A group from the With Art in Mind program visits the American Sign Museum.

Added fun actiities

With each offering, people who are living with dementia and their care partners attend fun programs that are free. At each event, they learn about new things, such as art or dance steps.

Also added in 2023 were:

  • The Wild About Minds program at the Cincinnati Zoo, where people saw animals up close, and enjoyed a tour of the zoo, led by volunteer guides and zoo staff.
  • Nurturing the Mind, at the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati, a six-week program where participants learn about plants and trees from six areas of the planet and do activities, such as planting. Each of six sessions covers plants from a different part of the world – North America; Central and South America; Africa; Europe; Asia; and the South Pacific.

Hippos at the zoo

The Wild About Minds program at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

A big dementia-inclusion benefit: Training of staff

Before each program launches, Shannon Braun, director of the Center for Memory Support and Inclusion, trains staff and docents at each location. They learn successful techniques that help them communicate with people who are living with dementia. One approach is to join in with their reality, rather than contradicting what they say.

“Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves,” Shannon said about the Civic Garden Center program. “We learned a lot about different parts of the world, and what plants naturally grow there. And then we had an opportunity to get our hands dirty and plant seeds from the region we learned about.”

Shannon said the garden center visits offered opportunities to learn new things.

“And there was a lot of interaction – a lot of questions, a lot of interest in the plants – and we cover a different part of the world every time we go,” Shannon said.

As for Wild About Minds, “I think everyone feels the energy of the zoo,” she said. “It’s a positive, uplifting, fun experience. Even being around the young kids who are there is fun. And the staff and volunteers at the zoo are so welcoming, and so caring, and really able to meet the needs of our people who join.”

Sara Birkofer, the Cincinnati Art Museum’s assistant director of gallery and accessibility programs, said docents there enjoy working with people who have dementia because they’re “able to have really open-ended conversations” with them.

“Any training we can provide to our staff to welcome people with different abilities, that is going to help us be able to welcome them better,” Sara said. “What’s really important about that is developing that empathy and highlighting that everybody deserves to be at the museum, but some people just need different accommodations.”

Nurturing Minds at Civic Garden Centerh

People who are living with dementia and their caregivers learn about plants — and plant some — with the Nurturing the Mind program at the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati.

Support Groups and other help

Shannon also continued to train Cincinnati police officers about people with Alzheimer’s and dementia because sometimes they can act in unpredictable ways that can create safety problems for them, such as if their state of mind at the time makes it impossible for them to follow instructions, but the officer believes they’re intentionally ignoring orders.

Shannon also trains staff at ERS’ three premier retirement communities, Marjorie P. Lee and Deupree House in Cincinnati’s Hyde Park neighborhood, and the Episcopal Church Home retirement campus in Louisville, Ky.

She also works with staff in ERS’ 30+ affordable living communities in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

The CMSI’s newly updated website, which provides information about the various free programs, support groups and other resources can be found at It also has blogs about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia for care partners and loved ones. Please tell a friend or family member who can be helped by it!

Also, to view the center's Mindful Monday Videos, click here.

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Mike Rutledge

Mike Rutledge

Mike Rutledge has been Integrated Marketing Manager for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS) since early 2022. He writes articles, blogs and other information to inform people about things happening at ERS’ retirement communities of Marjorie P. Lee an... Read More >

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