Zoo walkers exercise minds among critters

Did you know that tiger “parts” were traditionally used to treat ailments such as pimples? Or that porcupines chew old bones to get their minerals? The members of the Early Stage Memory Loss Zoo Walk learned these and other interesting facts during a recent “trivia treasure hunt” on one of their weekly adventures at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma.
Caregiver Services at Lutheran Community Services Northwest (LCSNW) partners with the Alzheimer’s Association of Western and Central Washington to offer a walking program in a safe, stimulating environment for individuals with mild memory loss and their care partners at the zoo.
Research indicates that daily physical exercise along with social engagement can help delay the effects of dementia, although individuals experiencing memory loss often retreat from both. The Zoo Walk provides participants with a weekly morning stroll through the zoo for exercise, followed by coffee and conversation to build relationships with others who understand their concerns and can offer support.
The walks take place weekly and include free admission to the zoo and aquarium for participants, volunteers and staff. Everyone pays for their own refreshments at the Plaza Cafe following the walk.
The next series of walks will begin April 10, although the walks are ongoing and new participants are welcome at any time, said LCSNW Caregiver Services program assistant Linda McCone (253-722-5691 or lmccone@lcsnw.org), who provides local coordination of the walks. Advance registration is required and is available through Katherine Painter, a coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association, at 206-529-3868 or kpainter@alz.org.
Caregiver Services also provides Support U: Fostering Caregiver Wellness classes which promote self-care and give caregivers a broad overview of information and available resources. New projects in the works for 2015 include the Connect and Care TimeBank for community volunteer connections and support to caregivers as well as Memory Cafes for those with dementia and their care partners.
LCSNW is “excited to be involved in promoting engaging activities such as the zoo walk for our clients with memory loss. The benefits to the individual, as well as their care partners, have been gratifying.” said Trudy Sorensen, area director.
Additional information is available from Pat Witt, program director for Caregiver Services, at 253-722-5691 or pwitt@lcsnw.org).

A Zoo Walk participant gets some face time with a tiger behind a clear partition at Point Defiance Zoo.
A Zoo Walk participant gets some face time with a tiger behind a clear partition at Point Defiance Zoo.