NIU Continues To Connect With Pine Acres Residents

Jan 1, 2021

Pine Acres resident Fred Filip.
Credit Staff at Pine Acres Rehabilitation & Living Center

Illinois nursing home residents are restricted from having visitors because of COVID-19 but volunteers from Northern Illinois University found other ways to engage with seniors at one local center.

Dementia residents of DeKalb’s Pine Acres Rehabilitation & Living Center were used to interacting with NIU students before the pandemic. One way they did this was through the Music and Memory program.  

Jamie Mayer is an associate professor in Allied Health and Communicative Disorders at NIU. She said research shows that music is great for dementia patients. 

“But we were trying to find something else that also does [that] and memory books are right up there as well,” Mayer said. “And it was just something that my students could do without physically being present in Pine Acres right now.” 

Families of the residents scanned photos, wrote captions and uploaded them to a Google site. The students used those to create photo books. These books were delivered to the center. 

Mayer said they are also connecting with residents in other ways.

“We got a loan of 29 iPads from a group on campus called CISLL, which is the Center for [the] Interdisciplinary Study of Language and Literacy,” she said.

These iPads allow the residents to chat with student volunteers 30-minutes weekly during what is called Zoom Pals. And the resident choir now gets together virtually, since the in-person choir couldn’t take place. 

  • Yvonne Boose is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at