"Column: Fighting the ravages of Alzheimer’s and dementia with the beauty of baseball"

Led by members of the Los Angeles chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research, a group of as many seven dementia patients and their companion caregivers participates in what is known as baseball reminiscence therapy.

In sessions designed to elicit moments of clarity through a century-old connection with the national pastime, participants talk ball, sing ball, and even play a little ball.

According to their caretakers, it is the first time some of them have engaged in weeks. From talk of Little League to thoughts of autograph chases, delving deep into poignant childhood memories, there is something about the ancient sport that rustles the mind.

"Watching what happens here is like watching people come to life."

"Baseball is a game of storytelling; it's the heart and soul of the sport. Everyone has baseball stories, everyone has baseball memories," says Leonoudakis, 61, a producer who brought the program here after hearing about its success in the Central/South Texas SABR chapter. "These people grew up during the game's golden age, so it seems like such a natural fit."

Oh, whose office also hosts therapeutic programs involving art, music, gardening and dance, says baseball touches a nerve.

"It brings them to the present," she says. "Individuals with dementia are often just home and not engaging in conversation, not being stimulated with activities. When they come here, it stirs up strong memories they have not thought about for a long time. It opens them up. It's real and important socialization."


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