Sophie Slater’s mother Laura Plimpton — a 30-year-old widow — moved her family to Weston in 1985. Laura’s sister — Martha Stewart — lived here, and had recently published her first book about entertaining. Martha and Laura worked together for the next 30 years.
Growing up, Sophie took full advantage of the art and cultural offerings in area. She also enjoyed sharing the Slater house with her grandmother.
“She was an incredibly industrious and sharp woman,” Sophie recalls. “The extensive time I spent with her and her friends nurtured my passion for working with seniors.”
Sophie saw the ways in which creative involvement — from making crafts at the Westport Senior Center, to cooking or sewing — benefited their lives.
She also realized the importance of organized caregiving. So connecting with Gillian Isaacs shortly before Sophie completed her master’s degree in art therapy and counseling felt serendipitous.
Gillian moved to Connecticut from South Africa in the mid-1990s. To support herself while she studied finance in college, she became a certified caregiver for an elderly New Canaan couple.
They became like family, and inspired Gillian to commit her life to improving the lives of seniors and people with disabilities. She went on to found certified nursing assistant schools, and Sheraton Homecare in Bethel.
Sheraton Caregivers opened in Westport in January. They offer personal care assistance, companionship, medication reminders, and meal planning and preparation.
Gillian became intrigued by the ways in which art therapy improved the lives of seniors, including those with cognitive impairments. She discovered Mneme therapy — an activity designed for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, autism, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, traumatic brain injury and cerebral palsy — and implemented it at Sheraton.
Art intervention reduces anxiety and depression, encourages pain reduction, increases cognitive stimulation and socialization, promotes self-expression and improves self-esteem.
Art therapy can also be used by seniors and their families in times of transition, such as a change in caregivers, a move to an assisted living facility or the loss of a loved one.
Sheraton caregivers are the first credentialed providers of Mneme therapy in Connecticut. Sophie is the art therapy director.
At a time when the elderly population is increasing — we’re all getting older, right? — Sophie hopes she can provide a service for a community that gave her so much, when she was just a kid.