Innovating Dementia Care: The Memory Care Experience Station

San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living (SFCJL) has launched an exciting, innovative project to develop the Memory Care Experience Station, which is winning awards and showing remarkable promise as a tool to help solve one of the biggest problems for people living with dementia: a lack of engagement and stimulation that leads to isolation, boredom, and other behavioral challenges.

The Memory Care Experience Station (the Station or MCES) is the first of its kind: a stand-alone unit that provides immersive, multi-sensory experiences that function as a form of sensory therapy. The station stimulates all five senses and is designed to represent a wide variety of familiar experiences and themes. It employs a combination of visual imagery, calming sounds, smells, and/or tactile stimulation to engage users with a meaningful and dynamic experience, distracting them from fears and enabling them to utilize imagination and creativity. Extensive research has shown this type of therapy decreases agitation, anxiety, apathy, and depression; all behaviors most often associated with dementia.

Without medical breakthroughs on the immediate horizon, behavioral health and wellness interventions are the best ways to help people living with dementia to overcome the barriers of the disease and achieve their best ability to function.

The Project

The project began in 2018, when SmithGroup—a world-renowned architectural, engineering, and planning firm with a specialty in innovative healthcare—partnered with SFCJL to host a design competition. The challenge: design experience stations that enable residents with dementia to engage in daily sensory therapy, play, and social interaction. The teams included two design firms and UC Berkeley students in the Fung Fellowship, a multi-disciplinary program in the School of Public Health that is focused on developing entrepreneurs in health and wellness. The SFCJL leadership group identified features of several different station designs that the SmithGroup lead synthesized, and worked with the designers involved to forge the best elements from each into the final Experience Station design.

In tandem with the design competition, SFCJL received a SPARK grant from The Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI). SPARK program grants provide funding to support innovative grassroots ideas that can help to improve brain health or quality of life for older adults.

With this initial funding, SFCJL engaged Maria Mortati to build the first prototype for the Station. Mortati’s 20-year track record as an interactive experience designer ensured that she and SFCJL’s dementia care team could create a truly ground-breaking, potentially life-changing, therapeutic tool for people living with dementia.


INNOVATION AWARD, THE SCAN FOUNDATION – This highly coveted award recognizes organizations that have embraced the principles of human-centered design to build and/or modify a product, program, or service to improve the lives of older adults. The MCES received an honorable mention.

INNOVATION SHOWCASE, LEADINGAGE CALIFORNIA – This Award recognizes ideas that include evidenced-informed technologies, new approaches to caregiving, life enrichment approaches, enhanced safety and security, and improving quality of life for older adults. The MCES was a finalist.

WORLD CHANGING IDEAS, FAST COMPANY – With the goals of awarding ingenuity and fostering innovation, Fast Company draws attention to ideas with great potential and helps them expand their reach. A panel of judges from across sectors chose winners, finalists, and honorable mentions based on feasibility and the potential for impact. The MCES was a finalist in the Experimental category.

Path to Implementation

So far, we have created two full-scale prototypes of the Memory Care Experience Station platform. Currently in Phase Two of the project, our creative team is working in our on-site Memory Care community to research, build, test, and iterate prototypes of the Station with our resident users and staff. As the project continues, plans are to create a new software platform that allows video content to sync with special effects in a more user-friendly way. Development of new cabinetry will provide for a more immersive yet smaller footprint. Other, more nimble Stations will be developed and manufactured to enable in-room use by residents who are bed-bound. Further fundraising efforts will allow us to complete Phase Two and begin the next phase of the project, which will include both evolving the physical format of the Experience Station and creating additional Experiences for residents to enjoy.

SFCJL has a proven track record of innovating to meet the ever-expanding needs of older adults. The Station is the newest component of our philosophy of transformational care and delivery. Ultimately, our aim is to create a replicable system that can be used across the SFCJL campus as well as in other residential care communities catering to people living with dementia.

For more information or to support the project, please contact Stacey Lewis, Chief Development Officer, at or 415-562-2630.