When the Gentlemen's Club was started back in 2003, the primary goal was to create an intimate and caring therapeutic environment for socially isolated men in the early and middle stages of Alzheimer's disease. In addition, it was felt that the meeting would also benefit the caregiving spouses by giving them an afternoon off to allow them time for themselves. For the past 9 years Gentlemen's Club has successfully met these goals and in the process we have seen many additional benefits as a result of the program.
The most important benefit is the enhancement of self-esteem the men enjoy when allowed to meet with their peers in a relaxed setting where they are not judged for any short-comings but are respected for the person they once were and accepted for who they are now. Furthermore, the sense of belonging, the feeling that they can still contribute to something outside of their own lives is very important for someone who is finding it increasingly difficult to navigate in the larger world. We have also seen how the friendships that have developed in the Gentlemen's Club have been helpful when the men move into more traditional day care or into assisted living. The transition can be so much smoother because our gentlemen already have experience and a comfort level with being in a social program and away from their caregiver for an extended period of time and it's easier to adjust when they already have a friend in their new setting.
Another interesting development has been the addition of men who are earlier in the diagnosis who are taking advantage of Gentlemen's Club. Many of these guys have recently graduated from our Early Stage Group, which is an eight-week education program that has served as an introduction to Alzheimer's and hopefully helped to prepare them for some of the challenges ahead. These men are empowered to take a positive approach to dealing with this disease and Gentlemen's Club is a perfect opportunity for them to become more socially active. In addition to our early men there are a number of members who have essentially "aged in place" and although their impairments have progressed they are able to continue at Gentlemen's Club due to the continuity of the program and their familiarity with the club. This has led to a record numbers of attendees. This past year there were many Fridays where we were at or near capacity and the numbers barely dipped after the winter season ended. Gentlemen's Club continues to meet at the beautiful Terracina Grand Retirement Community and many of their male residents also attend the program, this is particularly beneficial to those gentlemen who have moved into Terracina Grand and are able to keep coming to the meeting. The activities and programs offered at Gentlemen's Club continue to focus on the interests and experiences of men. These activities are centered on topics such as, news and current events, sports, work, and local issues. Wellness is stressed along with recognition of military service and veteran affairs. Music is another primary event whether through singers and musicians or from our own Gentlemen's Glee Club. Humor is an important aspect of the program and there is always an abundance of jokes, laughter and gentle ribbing that is a part of the bonding taking place between members. These activities along with a nutritious lunch and a little ice cream add up to a fun-filled afternoon that validates a sense of self-worth in our gentlemen and gives them something to look forward to each week. The Gentlemen's Club could not function without the dedicated service of our volunteers. These wonderful men and women come each week and join in our program, interact with the gentlemen, as well as making sure they get their coffee and lunch and that everyone is safe and their needs are being met. Some of our volunteers are former caregivers themselves and support Gentlemen's Club because they recognize the value of the program or remember how their own loved one enjoyed it and want to be sure others have an opportunity to be a part of it. We look forward to another year of Gentlemen's Club and an opportunity to provide an appropriate program that allows men in the early stages of Alzheimer's to have a place where they feel they belong, where we can celebrate who they were and also who they are today with a sense of camaraderie and fun.