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Boxes keep memories for retirees


Volunteers needed to finish project begun by Clackamas students

This spring, Emerson House began a partnership with students from the Sabin-Schellenberg Professional Technical Center’s Health Services program to create memory boxes for its 55 resident senior citizens.

Four students agreed to take the lead on the project and met with a team from Emerson House to develop a questionnaire used to interview residents. The entire Health Services class of more than 30 students spent more than three hours at Emerson House meeting with residents and talking to them about their lives so that biographies could be written for each person’s memory box. Students also contacted the families of residents whose dementia was more advanced and interviewed them for the biographies.

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - A picture of one of Emerson Houses prototype memory boxes.Photos used in these memory boxes are from a person’s childhood or early to mid-adulthood. In most cases a person suffering from a memory loss disease will lose their short-term memory but retain long-term memory. This is why a person with dementia cannot recognize a photo of themselves taken at their current age, but will relate to photos that connect them with family members and happy memories in their past.

Memory boxes also are a tool that allows families and caregiving staff to reminisce with a person. The boxes can be a wonderful aid in helping caregivers better understand the people they are caring for and the important events in their lives.

In addition to their regular health service curriculum, students took on this memory-box volunteer project. Half of the boxes have been built. The students leading the project have graduated and are available for a limited numbers of hours to help bring the project to completion.

Volunteer help is needed to finish building the boxes at a work party at Emerson House, 3577 S.E. Division St., Portland.

All materials are pre-cut. Gluing, nailing and staining are required to complete the boxes. A date and time for the work party will be set based on the volunteers’ schedules.

Contact Melissa Fisher for more information at 503-234-8585 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..