Day center helps seniors gracefully age at home

Classroom space adjacent to the Vancouver, Washington, church was converted to the activity center, which serves people with Alzheimer’s and other memory issues.

As he played the keyboard, volunteer Franck Geuder led a small group of people in singing Christian hymns, many of them about someday moving onto Heaven.

“I’m pressing on the upward way,

New heights I’m gaining every day;

Still praying as I onward bound,

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‘Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.’”

Marjorie Varner sang along with her husband, Duane. They’ve been married for 55 years. The retired Navy captain, who served two tours in Vietnam, still remembers some hymns even if he can’t remember much else. A couple of months ago, Marjorie Varner started bringing her husband to Graceful Living Activity Center, a Vancouver, Washington, day center for people with memory issues run by Grace Lutheran Church.

“I just think it’s a wonderful service, really,” Marjorie Varner said. “It has been a big help. It’s real comfortable here.”

Graceful Living Activity Center has been around about a year and remains small with six people enrolled in the program, said Amy Holland, the center’s director. Thursday afternoon, there were more volunteers than clients. Holland is the only employee, but the church is hiring a full-time activity coordinator.

“We’re kind of starting from the bottom and building it from the ground up,” Holland said. “Because we’re so small a lot of people don’t know we’re here.”

Classroom space adjacent to the church was converted to the activity center, which has plush couches and chairs, a kitchenette and a fenced courtyard out front. On Thursday, Geuder had set up his keyboard in front of bookshelves filled with blankets, board games, books and craft supplies. While everyone was singing hymns, some canvas art was drying on the patio in the sun.

After hymns, Geuder led the group through prayer for the country and for Graceful Living Activity Center.

“Be with Graceful Living so that we can help families that need extra special care,” he said.

Grace Lutheran Church has a preschool and day care for children younger than 12 that’s been in operation for decades, which isn’t unusual for a church. Its day center for people who have dementia and Alzheimer’s, though, is rare. Clients don’t have to be a particular denomination or anything to…

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