Naples Senior Center receives $5 million donation for dementia program

Published: January 13, 2019 9:07 AM EST

A considerable cash infusion was just donated to help many in Collier County.

The funds were bestowed to the Naples Senior Center. It offers several services, including helping dementia patients that have a group of symptoms associated with memory decline or thinking skills, which impede performing everyday tasks independently.

In five years, the Naples Senior Center has gone from helping 80 to 1,400 seniors a year. But, it’s still a small portion of the over 20,000 in Collier County who have dementia.

The staff at Naples Senior Center work closely with the patients. One way is to encourage the patient to think of something, such as a place he or she has traveled. Then, the staff member will tell them a fact from the patient’s history, to draw the memory out.

“We started three years ago with one group and today we have eight groups,” said Dr. Jaclynn Faffer, who is the president and CEO of Naples Senior Center.

Under her leadership, groups meet twice a week with a licensed professional for physical and brain fitness. Behind each man and woman in the class is a son or daughter who often cares for them, like Jan Goldsmith.

“It’s been a great blessing to have this,” Jan said.

Doctors diagnosed her father with Alzheimer’s disease, which is a specific disease that destroys memory and thinking skills, over a year-and-a-half ago. The effects from Alzheimer’s are slow and irreversible.

“All of the senses are being used when they’re here and I really think that that has helped him,” Jan said.

The Naples Senior Center also helps provide food and social opportunities just for seniors. As with most successful programs, they grow.

That is where Jay and Patty Baker come in. The generous couple who live in Naples made their fortune from the department store retail chain, Kohl’s, and they just donated $5 million.

One reason for the donation is the couple has witnessed the dismal affects the symptoms have firsthand. Jay’s mother had dementia.

“To have people who care and can help and know how to handle situation and diffuse situations between family members and the person who’s suffering, it’s just, there’s no downside to it,” Patty said. “It’s all up. It’s all a good thing.”

The couple hopes their donation will let the Naples Senior Center help more people in the future. Current plans allocate the funds to build a bigger facility in North Naples.