Taipei--A convenience store in Taiwan's Chiayi City has launched a trainee program aimed at helping seniors with dementia mix with people, in hopes of revitalizing their brain functions and delaying their aging process.
The program is sponsored by the Sisters of Our Lady Of China Catholic Charity Social Welfare Foundation, whose Chief Executive Officer Li Shih-hung had asked local people to extend warmth and care so that the seniors, whose average age is 85, can feel their loving kindness.
Under the program, two seniors aged between 72 and 98 would work at the 7-11 chain's Daye store to serve customers starting at 11:00 a.m. every Thursday.
The store is the first one that is "dementia-friendly" in Taiwan, Li said.
Store manager Luo Shu-fen said after three weeks of training, most of the seniors are able to say "welcome to our store" -- though some would forget the last two words.
One of the seniors, an 84-year-old lady, has come up with her own way of greeting customers in the Minnan dialect by saying: "do shia (thanks)" and "wu ying lai zei (come again -- to chat with us when you're free)," Luo said.
A 90-year-old woman cannot remember to greet customers with "welcome to our store," but has no problem making coffee for them, following which she would congratulate herself by saying, "I never realized I could make coffee!"
Li said many people do not understand what it is like to have dementia, and do not know how to get along with sufferers of the disease.
"We're offering an opportunity for the public to get to know them better," he added.
Dementia is a brain disease that causes a decrease in a person's ability to think and remember. In serious cases, it can affect a person's ability to handle daily tasks, as well as cause emotional problems, problems with language, and a decrease in motivation.
Dementia affects tens of millions of people worldwide. In Taiwan, around 5 percent of the people age 65 and older suffer from the disease, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
There is no cure for dementia.
Source: Overseas Community Affairs Council