Early Stage Alzheimer’s


A Brief History & Overview

After the reorganization of New York City’s Meals-on-Wheels program in 2008, the Stein Senior Center no longer delivered meals to the home-bound. We then considered other pressing needs in our community and decided to start a social adult day program for seniors with early-stage Alzheimer’s and related dementia. Several members of the center were dealing with these issues.

We researched and worked on the project for a year and finally opened in July 2009 as “The Early-Stage Alzheimer’s Service Program for Adults (SPA),” meeting two days a week from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. We started with eight participants and several caregivers who stayed for support. One of our participants said, “We came into this room as strangers, but left as friends!” Friendship is an important component of the program’s goal to create a safe space for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and related dementia.

Varied activities for the mind and body help stimulate the group. We have Creative Writing on Mondays, led by a talented and experienced teacher. Assignments are given and each member writes in his or her own journal (we take dictation for those who may have trouble writing). Participants read their pieces to the group and discussion ensues. After Creative Writing, there’s Tai Chi using music and movement.

On Fridays, the group works with an art therapist who uses different assignments to spur their creativity and access memories. After the drawing session, participants display and discuss their work. Periodically, the SPA schedule also includes dance parties, live music, movies and field trips.

The group is limited to 12 to 15 participants, enabling us to provide optimum care and attention. Friendships and support develop and ensure a sense of safety among a close-knit group experiencing similar problems. This is a fee-based initiative that has been recognized for innovative programming and featured in national and local news media.

To help the Stein Senior Center sustain and expand the Early-Stage Alzheimer’s Service Program for Adults (SPA), please visit the Donate Page on this website. Thank you!


We are pleased to share excerpts from a recent letter:

Early-Stage Alzheimer’s Service Program for Adults (SPA)
Mines Memories at the Stein Senior Center

Like the Statue of Liberty which stands proudly in New York harbor holding a torch that symbolizes freedom and welcomes visitors to our Nation’s shores, the Stein Senior Center shines a bright light of compassion to community residents on our journeys through life’s many stages. When Alzheimer’s was closing doors in my father’s life at age 91, the “SPA program” at the Stein Senior Center provided an extended family and a welcomed home. There he discovered an opportunity to explore his feelings through intimate conversations with new friends, expressed his thoughts through writing and poetry, channeled his energy through creative physical movements…

Encouraging people with Alzheimer’s to mine their memories and tell their own life stories to each other, highlighting their accomplishments and challenges, may not be a cure for Alzheimer’s, but it reinforces their personal identities, stretches their memories, deepens their sense of meaning in life, and provides an invaluable respite to their family caregivers. The fact that my father was enjoying activities in a protected environment afforded my mother an opportunity to shop, see a doctor for herself, and enjoy a few hours of freedom to regain her good humor and restore her energy.

The creative staff at the Stein Center has exuded a great spirit of genuine respect and compassion which permeates the friendships that blossom within the group and extend to the family members of all participants… My family and I are truly grateful for the gift of community that the SPA program shines on members of our society who still have much to live for, and share with each other, and with us all on our journeys through life.

What I like best about the Stein Senior Center is the way it serves as a community hub, seeing people’s needs and strengths and linking them up to strengthen our community… By appreciating the uniqueness of each individual, and nurturing social bonds, the Stein Center has broken through the isolation which Alzheimer’s and aging often impose, and created a real opportunity for people to rediscover their memories, reprise what is special about their lives now, and deepen their self-esteem… May your vital work continue to shine brightly, raising the torch of compassion and creativity as you expand the hearts and imagination of all members of our community.


Bob Griss, for my entire family in great appreciation for the love and inspiration that you imparted to my father, Seymour Griss, a proud graduate of CCNY, Columbia University, and the SPA program.