An excerpt from Matthew Futterman:
A little after 9 a.m. last week, Wardell Johnston declared he wanted to be left alone. Confused and annoyed by the activities and tasks confronting him, the 87-year-old Alzheimer's sufferer shut his door at the Silverado Senior Living home in Belmont, Calif.
Just hours later, Mr. Johnston was measuring the uphill, right-to-left break on a 12-foot putt and knocking his ball into the hole. Then the former civil engineer, who played the game regularly as a younger man, ambled over to the driving range. He grabbed a six iron and practiced chipping with the sort of easy, stress-free swing duffers half his age could learn something from.
"I quit," he said with a cocky grin after each successful shot. Then he deftly cradled another ball with his club, moving it into position for the next stroke. "I haven't played a lot lately," he added. "I should, though. I've still got all the strokes."
Anyone who has dealt with people suffering from mid- to late-stage Alzheimer's knows how difficult it can be to transport someone from fear and confusion to contentment and lucidity. But at Silverado, caregivers have stumbled onto a technique that works nearly every time -- a golf outing. They run through a series of putting drills, knocking the ball around with the wonder of small children playing the game for the first time, which is how many of them experience it each week. For those who played the game when they were younger, swinging a club often sparks a startling transformation, however fleeting, that can make them seem like regular old folks again.