In the doorway of each of the 30 resident rooms in the Starr Memory Care Residences is a large, glass box, commonly called shadow boxes. Within these boxes are all sorts of memorabilia, from newspaper clippings and photos to small glass sculptures and artwork. Each box gives a peak into the life and interests of the resident it belongs to, and is an important way to help those in memory care retain their identity.

Each memory box tells a story, highlighting the things most important to each resident. Bob Johnson’s box contains a few toy model cars, a newspaper clipping, and some other memorabilia from his time as a successful car dealership owner. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Bob joined the U.S. Air Force at age 17. He served for four years before being honorably discharged. After earning a degree in business management and accounting, Bob went on to own three General Motors dealerships and one Ford dealership, all in western New York. During this time, his companies were listed among Black Enterprise Magazine’s “Top 100 Auto Dealers.” After retiring and moving to Sarasota, Bob established a Robert Johnson scholarship fund at Ringling College and Empire State College and has also donated to the Sarasota City Parks Foundation.

It is common practice to have shadow boxes in Memory Care residences as markers for an individual’s room. Often, it is the staff that put these boxes together for the residents, but we invite our residents and their family members to fill them. When the Northwest Garden Building was being designed, “we wanted to expand the concept of these shadow boxes,” said Brandi Burgess, Administrator of Assisted Living and Memory Care. While front “porches” would not have been a practical use of space or materials, these boxes serve as a way for each resident to have an individualized entry to their abode. The boxes were made bigger and deeper and were illuminated from within to make the contents easier to see.

“They became beacons for each resident room, and are amazing conversation starters between residents, staff, and family members,” Brandi said. Next time you visit a loved one in the Starr Memory Care Residence, take some time to look inside these boxes and learn a little more about the people that live there.