April 17, 2023

Dementia-Friendly Activity at Red Butte Gardens

Special thanks to Michele Roepke for contributing this story and photo

Hal Wolf, 88, with his PhD from the University of Utah and his faculty tenure, has walked the campus paths before. Walking the Red Butte Garden paths Friday, however, may have seemed like a fresh activity this April day, and that’s understandable to his wife of 65 years, Joan, a PhD and faculty member from the U as well.

Admiring the bright yellow daffodils with them is Rosemary Quatrale, Older Adult Care Manager at JFS, who organizes the Dementia-Friendly Activity the Wolf’s are enjoying.

The goal of her program offerings, said Rosemary “is socialization. When people have dementia, they’re often cut off from friends and family activities. So we're providing an activity that's adult based, and yet maybe a little bit of a slower pace and something very specific to people with dementia. There are no other programs like this for people who have dementia within the community kind of setting.”

Hal and Joan, 86, have lived in Salt Lake City, on and off, throughout their adult lives. Married in Boston, they also lived, worked and studied at Ohio State University. She’s a Utah leader in the world of Education Psychology/ Special Education, he was the Dean of the College of Pharmacy at the U of U.

Strolling hand in hand through the poignant and fragrant Garden of Medicinal Plants, things Hal knew well, brings them joy. 

Taking on the role of caretaker these days, Joan gets assistance not only from this group and a caregiver support group, but also from their two sons. “We’re quite fortunate, because we feel like we have a very strong support system,” she said.

“I've read enough to know that caregivers, in formal and informal roles are not always well supported. It's not necessarily part of our social system, and caregivers don’t get the support they need. Some people have to leave their jobs, and then they don't have resources to pay for the help they need. It’s nice to have been connected now with Jewish Family Service.”

Joan and Hal recently generously donated a food pantry shelf in the Alex & Sally Lebwohl Food Pantry, located at the JFS office in Salt Lake City.  “Just because we want to give back.” Joan said.

As the group continued to walk through the gardens, they slowed as they come upon a large, friendly Canadian goose, which was also spending a leisurely moment in nature. They looked up to see, and closed their eyes to truly hear, the flock of 40 small birds in the towering tree above them. 

The Red Butte Gardens and JFS gave back to Joan and Hal on that walk with serene scenes of lapping lakes, rushing rivers, and wonderful waterfalls.

To join this program or for more information, contact Rosemary Quatrale at  or call 801-746-4334.