History of AGE of Central Texas Early Memory Loss Support (formerly New Connections)
New Connections at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church was developed by church member Deborah Wilder in 2003 to address a community need for meaningful, purposeful programming for people experiencing the symptoms of early-stage dementia. In the years since, the weekly program has offered such cognitively engaging activities as current events discussions, creative writing, music therapy, and brain games. One of the most popular and beneficial components of the program has been a professionally-facilitated support group exclusively for people with a diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s disease or another progressive memory loss.
In 2011, AGE of Central Texas was honored to be approached by Ms. Wilder to discuss the long term sustainability and growth of the program. Because of its focus on enhancing the quality of life of people with memory loss, New Connections was a natural fit in the AGE umbrella of services, so in January of 2012 it became a core AGE program. AGE respects the church’s continuing commitment to supporting this valuable program and is grateful for the church’s ongoing willingness to host the program on Thursdays at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church.
In the words of New Connections’ founder, Debbie Wilder, “This partnership will allow New Connections to grow and expand with the ability to serve more people with early memory loss. AGE has a proven track record in Austin of meeting the needs of families dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and similar dementias.”
To celebrate AGE’s 30th Anniversary in 2016, it was decided to rebrand the program with a new name: Memory Connections. The new name honors the program’s past with an eye to the future as the program continues to add new sites throughout Central Texas.
“We felt that a new name was needed, because the term ‘memory loss’ can have stigma associated with it and because the program was named for our participants’ diagnoses, rather than their strengths,” said Program Director K.C. Lawrence. “Since our program focuses on our participants’ strengths and finding hope in this new chapter of their lives – living with early dementia or early memory loss – we wanted to utilize a more strengths-based name. The new name indicates what we offer support for older adults living with cognitive challenges, along with the opportunity for connections with others facing similar challenges.”