Photos by Derek Bell
Our Northwest Georgia seniors are some of our most precious and valued citizens. A life lived near the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains fills them with wondrous stories of the past and a love for the community they call home. However, there comes a time when they must rest and pass the baton to those who will run the next leg of the race. Right here, in the family-friendly City of Rome, there is a place where they can relax and reflect with ease, while being surrounded by all the comforts of the home they remember.
Renaissance Marquis (3126 Cedartown Hwy., Rome) and their two-years-young memory care unit, The Harbor, is a community where residents can enjoy the golden years of their lives with neighbors and friends. With independent living, personal care or assisted living, and a secure memory care facility, Renaissance Marquis’ dedicated staff works to meet the needs of seniors who may benefit from an extra hand with their day-to-day routine.
The meticulously landscaped entryway opens into a lobby with wooden-railed staircases that climb to a third floor. A cherry-wood grand piano fills the space, accented by stately furnishings that invite you for a seat and a chat. A glance to the left reveals a wall adorned with portraits of the veterans who have served our country. The Wall of Honor, so appropriately named, is framed on either side by the uniforms worn by the proud men and women of the United States armed forces. Most importantly, every member of the Renaissance Marquis staff greets you with a smile and a warm hello.
Through the lobby is an outdoor area, complete with a gas fire pit, an arbor-covered kitchen and nooks peppered with intimate seating areas. Seasonal flowers line the green space and a walking trail weaves its way through the property and around a gazebo. All the space requires is a glass of iced tea and an engaging conversation.
Located past the dining area, which smells of a home-cooked Sunday dinner, is the key-coded entrance to The Harbor. A separate wing of Renaissance Marquis, The Harbor is specifically designed to ensure that residents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other memory challenges feel safe and comfortable. Let’s take a walk down memory lane, so to speak, and find out what makes The Harbor a place perfectly suited for remembering the moments our seniors hold so dear.
Upon entering the living environment, you are greeted by 50s-style décor and pictures of Rome’s history hang about the walls. An old typewriter conjures feelings of nostalgia, making the room soft and warm. The doors in and out of the living space are painted to look like shelves of books to deter a resident from attempting to wander away. Placed around the base of all exterior doors leading outside the unit is a small semi-circle of black tile that gives the impression of a hole, further protecting our loved ones from the dangers of walking out unsupervised.
The walls are covered in bright pastels, giving the sensation of a sunny spring afternoon, a thoughtful response to residents who spend quite a bit of their time indoors. The bottom half of the wall boasts a white picket fence, opening to a large common area. There, the words “Town Diner” stretch across a cabana overhanging a quiet area for eating or reading. The medical desk is clearly marked “Town Clinic” and, of course, no main street is complete without the “Town Theater,” displayed above the flat screen TV and surrounded by marquis lights. You can almost imagine the sound of a ’57 Chevy and the slurping of a malted milkshake as your eyes take in the sights.
Renita Chambers, executive director of Renaissance Marquis and The Harbor, is excited about this addition to their services and, as she details the program, it appears she has good reason. “The Harbor is a specialized care unit with 24 apartments. And because all of the residents in this area of our community have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia or different stages of these diseases, we make sure we take extra measures to keep them safe and secure,” she explains. “We provide more one-on-one care and the activities are more specific to their needs.”
With 24-hour staffing, residents are under the watchful eye of The Harbor team but no one is idle in this fine group of elderly folks. Chambers and her team of professionals keep their residents moving and shaking, which helps them to retain the fond memories of their past.
Catie Mason, Harbor supervisor, explains how they structure the days of their residents to keep them busy and entertained, all with an emphasis on memory care. “We spend most of our time in the common area. We want them out there, engaged in activities, to keep their minds as active as possible,” she says. “We have people from the community who come in to sing and dance with the residents and local schools come in often to provide entertainment. We also have a really neat activity we call Sittercise that we do every day. I’ve actually participated in Sittercise and I felt the burn in my arms and legs. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t know how they do this every day.’”
As Mason explains Sittercise, a group of residents gather their chairs around David Duke, Harbor activity director, and he leads them in songs and aerobic arm movements. The sound of voices singing “I’ll Fly Away” rings through the halls as each senior follows Duke’s instruction, grinning from ear-to-ear. “Twist and Shout” is the next tune on the list and the up-tempo melody matches their exercise movements.
“I love to see the miracles happen as David Duke leads our residents through an activity we call the Running of Rome,” Chambers adds. “Even our residents who have very little movement will eventually go from sitting, to standing and reaching for the sky. Our exercise program really begins to involve all of our residents, and with the movement comes tons of smiles. I love to hear the voices of our Alzheimers residents saying, ‘wow, what a workout!’ The exercises we incorporate into our mind stimulating games create magical moments with them.”
Outside the common area is an enclosed garden, where corn stalks, tomatoes and a creeping watermelon vine thrive in the sun. “We get our residents outside as much as we can,” Mason says. “Some of them are farmers and they really enjoy growing and picking the vegetables. David Duke has incorporated these vegetables into our activities by helping them to make tomato sandwiches all summer with the harvested produce.”
The senior citizens at The Harbor are active physically, but Chambers also points out some of the unique things they do to keep their mental health sharp. “We have incorporated word games and memory games into the resident’s activities, like ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ and we have tweaked those games to stimulate their minds,” she says. “We have also developed programs that focus on what they are feeling, smelling and hearing to help them relate to familiar senses. Our “Simple C” program is unique because we have installed a monitor in everyone’s room. In that monitor are personal photos that have been downloaded and family members’ voices for voice recognition. The monitor may have their son or daughter’s voice telling them to wake up, enjoy their breakfast and have a wonderful day as they get out of bed.”
Chambers says this helps the residents to be calm and comfortable when things around them are becoming more and more unfamiliar. “We watch over them at night while they are sleeping, but when they are awake our goal is to keep their minds and their bodies stimulated,” she says.
All of the required services are also taken care of at The Harbor, such as meals, medication management and assistance with daily challenges. The numerous services are lengthy, so be sure to visit their website at
www.renaissancemarquis.com. There you can view the facility, schedule a tour and see the many accommodations offered. There is also a list of the special programs available to memory-challenged residents and the details of how each activity helps to quell memory loss.
BA harbor is a place where a vessel that has sailed the seas of life can find rest in the placid water of the shoreline, and Mason finds joy in helping to calm the choppy waves caused by frightening diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. “Some people ask me why I do this, and if it makes me sad to grow attached to someone who leaves this world,” she says. “It does make me sad sometimes, but the reward of making their lives as great as possible is worth every bit of it.”
Thanks, Renaissance Marquis and The Harbor, for helping our seniors to tell their stories again and again.
To schedule a tour contact Ben Baker at 706.295.0014