According to the national Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with this disease, and the number could total as much as 16 million people by the year 2050. Like millions of others, Ruth Sutcliffe has seen the impact that Alzheimer’s and dementia has taken on family members and friends – and following her 30-year career as a fragrance expert, she has been discovering the remarkable power of smell to evoke memories of those with these conditions, and spark conversation.
Inspired by her many visits and countless hours as a volunteer at senior care centers, Sutcliffe developed The Scent Guru Group’s Essential Awakeningsä Smell and Memory Kit (www.TheScentGuruGroup.com) — a kit that can be used by families and senior care providers to help individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia to recall cherished moments in their lives through the sense of smell. As she found through her work in the fragrance industry – and has been supported by scientific research — there is a powerful link between an individual’s sense of smell and their ability to recall past experiences. Sutcliffe remains optimistic that her smell and memory kits will be proven to be therapeutic.
It has already been found that “olfactory memory” stimulates significantly more brain activity – primarily in the area known as the “limbic system” – than memories triggered by visual or auditory stimuli. Those who work with older men and women in senior care centers have been impressed with the way the Essential Awakeningsä Smell and Memory Kit engages many residents in conversation and leads them to share some of their favorite memories.
Ruth Sutcliffe is currently exploring how the kit might be used by occupational therapists and speech pathologists to benefit their patients. For example, one four-time aneurysm survivor recently told her about a dramatic breakthrough she experienced, in conjunction with her use of the kit. She told Sutcliffe that by using the kit every day, her ability to detect a range of smells has expanded dramatically. “I highly recommend this wonderful kit,” she said. At first, she was only able to identify one of the six smells in the kit. By making the kit part of her daily therapy, she was thrilled to find that she was regaining her sense of smell. “To get to the point of smelling five out of six scents,” she wrote, “it has taken me a little over five weeks. [I] never knew how much I took my sense of smell for granted.”
Recognizing the valuable potential of the Essential Awakeningsä Smell and Memory Kitsä to improve millions of lives, the Women’s Business Development Council of Stamford, Connecticut – a division of the Small Business Administration — recently nominated Ruth Sutcliffe for a national innovation award, the 2017 “InnovateHER” Award, noting the way the Essential Awakenings kit promises to “empower the lives of women and families.”
During her many visits to various senior care centers, Sutcliffe has seen the remarkable way the smell and memory kit engages the attention of the residents she speaks with, inspires them to recall special memories from decades earlier, and affects them in other important ways. One of Sutcliffe’s greatest joys is the conversations that frequently result when she visits various senior care centers and asks the residents she speaks with to see if they can identify one of the smells, and then asks what special memories may come to mind as a result. For example, the smell of lilac sparks conversations of gardens and the differences between white and purple lilac.
Based on the success of the Premier Edition Essential Awakeningsä Smell and Memory Kit she produced, containing six individual “smells” – grass, chocolate, mint, pineapple, cinnamon and jasmine – Sutcliffe recently introduced the Second Edition of the kit. The Second Edition Essential Awakeningsä Smell and Memory Kit contains an additional set of “smells” that many people associate with enjoyable memories — apples, pine, lavender, lilac, popcorn and vanilla.
Ruth Sutcliffe’s frequent volunteer work at senior care centers – Atria in Stamford, The Greens in Greenwich, and the Hebrew Home in Riverdale, north of Manhattan – as well as visits to many other centers has given her the chance to share the Essential Awakeningsä kits with hundreds of people, and helped her hone in on the best possible product design. Sutcliffe says that on one of these visits, a mission statement or motto for this project occurred to her: “Reaching to memories through the sense of smell.”
About Ruth Sutcliffe
Ruth Sutcliffe, founder of The Scent Guru Group, LLC, is the creator of the Essential Awakeningsä Smell and Memory Kit, now available in the Premier Edition and Second Edition, and is a 30-year veteran of the flavor and fragrance industry. She has worked with several internationally recognized brands, developing products in the fine fragrance, household and personal care categories. Sutcliffe’s goal has been to create fragrances that enhance lives and help brands establish strong emotional ties with consumers. Ruth Sutcliffe and her family live in Greenwich, Connecticut.