In 2011, President and CEO of Goodwin House, Rob Liebreich, was inspired to research brain health in depth after watching his mother suffer from symptoms of dementia. “My mom was scared, and I didn’t have answers,” said Liebreich. So Liebreich went searching for answers.
In 2012, Liebreich attended a conference where Japanese doctors exhibited their research of brain activity and development. This inspired Rob to create a brain health program at the three Goodwin House facilities: Goodwin House Alexandria, Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads, and Goodwin House at Home.
The StrongerMemory program consists of a workbook with simple math problems and reading and writing prompts. Participants complete the simple modules throughout the week, then attend a weekly group check-in, either in-person or online, to inspire motivation.
“We knew that accountability was crucial and community was essential, and it’s hard for any of us to stay motivated without a partner, so we built that accountability into the program,” says Liebreich.
The curriculum was developed in 2019, and two pilot programs were launched in 2020. Then, in February 2021, Goodwin House welcomed Brain Health Program Manager Jessica Fredericksen to strengthen the StrongerMemory program.
The most important aspect of the StrongerMemory program is that it is individualized. Participants may choose to follow a curriculum-based workbook, but Jessica encourages her members to “read something that you enjoy.” StrongerMemory is “self-motivated and self-paced” coupled with the weekly support group. Today, there are 80 active members of the StrongerMemory program among the three Goodwin House locations.
One Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads resident and StrongerMemory participant, Paul Kearney, has truly taken the meaning of the program to heart and made it his own.
Asked why he joined the program, Kearney says, “I just began to notice that there were some things that I thought I should remember, just simple things like people’s names or some event that just happened. But I couldn’t recall it. Then, here is a program that is so promoted by our residents here and by our CEO that I said, Why don’t I give it a try?”
For Kearney, the program looks a little different than the problems in the workbook. Substituting translating the Irish language for the simple math and Bible study for the reading and writing, Kearney has found a way to make the program interesting and sustainable for his lifestyle.
“I’ve done it every day since I began,” says Kearney, who has been in the program approximately ten months. “I have noticed a slight memory improvement and quicker recall, and I can remember names more often. The idea is to relive your childhood in how you can learn. I want to stay with it because I like it.”
StrongerMemory is also available online at 17 locations via the Village to Village network (www.vtvnetwork.org), available from coast to coast. Participants of all ages from all facilities have boasted about the program’s success.
Goodwin House has a goal of impacting 100,000 lives with StrongerMemory by 2023. “We hope to spark excitement from the community and create a domino effect,” says Fredericksen.
What stemmed from one man’s search for answers and then branched into his business at Goodwin House has blossomed into a national movement. Goodwin House may be well on its way to creating that domino effect.