Thanks to a collaborative effort between the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith and Methodist Village Senior Living, Alzheimer's residents can now enjoy a new variety of recreational items to enrich their days.
Faculty in the UAFS College of Applied Science and Technology's 3D printing lab worked with Methodist Village CEO Melissa Curry to develop a set of nuts and bolts created on a 3D printer to aid residents' cognitive stimulation.
"The faculty at UAFS are deeply skilled, both as educators and as experts in their fields," said Dr. Terisa Riley, chancellor of UAFS. "It's exciting to see our mission as a comprehensive regional institution fulfilled in their commitment to serving the citizens of the River Valley through innovative partnerships like these."
Curry explained the care that goes into selecting items, explaining, "When planning for our Alzheimer's Special Care Community, we knew it was important to have the right sensory stimulation."
Throughout the facility, Curry demonstrated experiential centers for painting, gardening, fishing, cooking, and more, all designed with deep intentionality to support memory care residents.
Though the Alzheimer's Center attempted to replicate sensory activities every patient could relate to, there are many patients who hadn't spent their young lives at a garden or with pets, but on the job, operating heavy equipment and putting their hands to work.
For those residents, Curry envisioned a potential partnership with UAFS. She asked Dr. Ken Warden, dean of the UAFS College of Applied Science and Technology, if he could facilitate the creation of a few sets of 3D-printed nuts and bolts that would be reminiscent of work they might recall from their youth.
Warden worked with Max Johnston, assistant professor of Computer Graphic Technology at UAFS, to design 20 sets of large-scale, lightweight nuts and bolts that were 3D-printed with soft plastic in visually stimulating colors.
As Curry finished a tour of the facility, she led Riley, Warden, and Johnston into a room filled with laughter and a table stacked with disassembled objects. "This is an Alzheimer's resident who loves to 'fix' things," Curry explained with a smile. As Johnston opened the box, presenting his creations, the resident beamed. "He was the first to use the nuts and bolts, immediately gravitating toward them, filling his pockets with them for future objects that may need fixing," Curry added. "These have already been an incredible blessing to him, and will be to many others in the years to come."
"I was honored to meet the resident for whom the nuts and bolts were initially created," said Riley, "And incredibly impressed seeing the intentionality of Max Johnston's design in action."