Sweet Memories of Baseball…Through Smell?

While searching for links regarding the elderly and memories, I found this timely article.  Apparently, there is a nursing home in New York which built a kiosk featuring six ballpark scents residents can smell by hitting a button. Its purpose is to stimulate long-term memory through scent.

With the All-Star Break just a couple of days away, I couldn’t resist sharing the story.  The following is an excerpt from a piece titled “Baseball Game Scents Help Unlock Memories for Elderly” which originally appeared in the Seattle Times. I’ve included a link to the full story at the bottom.

“That’s the real stuff — that’s a mitt, all right,” Rochelle Youner, 80, said, smelling the leathery fragrance emitted from the kiosk, which attempts to bring the ballpark, or at least the smell of it, to the residents.

Many of the Hebrew Home’s residents were born and raised in the Bronx and are lifelong fans of the New York Yankees, with memories of visiting Yankee Stadium stretching back to the eras of Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, and even earlier to Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

But many of these older fans also experience age-related memory loss. So the home, which often finds seasonal pegs for its reminiscence-therapy programs, has timed its latest program to opening day at Yankee Stadium on Monday by erecting the kiosk with the therapeutic goal of re-creating the distinctive smell of the ballpark.

“Too bad we can’t be there in person,” Youner said.

This is the point of the kiosk: to once again take these fans out to the ballgame.

“The kiosk features six ballpark scents — hot dog, popcorn, beer, grass, cola and the mitt — in separate push-button dispensers installed at a height accessible to residents in wheelchairs.

It was recently installed in the permanent “Yankees Dugout” exhibition of team memorabilia at the nursing home, which includes seats, a turnstile and a locker from the old Yankee Stadium.

The olfactory exhibit, “Scents of the Game,” is meant to evoke long-forgotten memories for the home’s 785 residents, many of whom have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

“Many have difficulty with short-term memories but with some prompting can summon long-term ones, such as detailed recollections of childhood visits to ballparks decades ago” said Mary Farkas, director of therapeutic arts and enrichment programs at the Hebrew Home, where baseball has also been used in art therapy and poetry workshops.

Prompting these ballpark memories helps connect many residents with the joy they felt at the time and helps stimulate their cognition, Farkas said.

Dr. Mark W. Albers, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who studies the effect of scent on patients with neurodegenerative disease, said the Hebrew Home’s memory exhibit touches on fairly new territory in sensory therapy in trying to resurrect positive recollections in a small population of patients who share certain common memories.

Memory loss in older patients can often cause “an erosion of familiarity” and be accompanied by feelings of disorientation, he said. Unearthing pleasant memories from earlier years through sensory stimulation may help patients feel more stable, Albers said….

Corey Kilgannon The Seattle-Times, March 31, 2018

I would just like to add a post-script. As a long-time Chicago Cubs baseball fan, I am absolutely sure that I would find joy in my later years visiting this kiosk; although my only fantasy would be to add a seventh button labeled “Deep-dish pizza.”

Baseball Game Scents Help Unlock Memories for Elderly

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