To Paris with Love

couple holding hands on a street in Paris

The following article was written by Emily Scholler, MindSense Director. 

As Molly strolled along the Seine River, memories of a long ago paramour warmed her heart, which skipped a beat as she rounded the bend – here was where they had first kissed. She turned east and began meandering through the bustling streets of Paris, utterly absorbed and enchanted by the elegant architecture of each building she passed. Stumbling upon a quaint little bakery, she took in a deep breath and smelled the buttery crust of freshly baked croissants toasting in the oven. Familiar local faces bantered with her over steaming cups of dark French coffee and she delighted in returning the greetings with some of the French phrases she remembered from her childhood.

Molly, the 92-year-old woman above, has advanced dementia; yet she has just returned from a trip to Paris. She is not jet lagged as she did not fly there rather she took a remarkable journey to one of her favorite places on the planet by “armchair travel.” This travel experience transcends time and borders by enabling the “traveler” to do a deep dive using myriad sensory connections to meaningfully engage with a favorite place or a new and exotic locale.

So how did Molly get to Paris? Well first, she and I decided that Paris was worth a visit, because for many years she lived there as a young girl. As she grew older and the years passed by, she had dreamed many times about going back. A lively and vivacious character, Molly, a former actress and model, loved to sing and dance and explore the world, but now in her late 80s Alzheimer’s disease had other plans for her. As time went on, Molly became less engaged with friends and family, her world became less joyful and vibrant, and the opportunity to explore seemed unfeasible. Until that is, she started having MindSense cognitive enrichment sessions!

With armchair travel, Molly and I journeyed in a different and still very meaningful way. We began our trip by planning the visit. Where would we go and what would we see? What would the weather be like and what would we wear? We needed to do some research, so we watched a short travel documentary on Paris and identified our favorite places and why they were special to us. Next, we made decorations with a Parisian theme to get us in the mood. We sent out invitations to friends and family to see who wanted to join us. On the day of the trip, which lasted about an hour, we wore our berets and greeted one another in French.  We drank French coffee and ate freshly baked croissants as we watched some snippets from a Parisian fashion show. Next, we traveled by Google satellite along the Seine and by the Eiffel Tower. We were serenaded by the rich voices of French chanteuses crooning in the background. We ended our trip by hugging each other goodbye and practicing our French with one another. A bientôt, mon ami see you soon, my friend! Until next time!