LSU’s Brain Exercise Initiative (BEI) chapter provides opportunities for students to assist retirement home residents who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Co-founders and co-presidents William Haynes and Elise Peyroux are LSU juniors who founded the chapter in October with hopes of creating a campus organization that inspires students to give back to their communities.

“We’ve always wanted to make an impact on LSU before we leave,” Haynes said.

The national BEI organization aims to provide assistance to those who have Alzheimer’s Disease, a disease that results in memory loss that can cause a person to not recognize aspects of themselves and even forget about who their own family is, according to its website.

Haynes said BEI stuck out to him due to the ways that its cognitive exercises greatly benefitted those who currently had Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Simple math, reading and writing can help their cognitive function,” Haynes said. “We really hope for a day where seniors won’t forget their family and can just thrive and not be restrained by this disease.”

Peyroux said the national BEI organization crafted specific 30-minute exercises containing simple math, writing and reading sections that volunteers would then use in their interactions with Alzheimer’s residents.

“It’s backed by research showing that if you do these exercises so many times a day, it will not only help improve your cognitive function, but also it’s a way for us to make these lasting experiences with senior residents,” Peyroux said.

BEI is currently collaborating with St. James Place, a retirement community in Baton Rouge which will potentially be the first place for the organization to volunteer in-person.

“We were really excited to partner with St. James Place,” Haynes said. “They’re a really nice facility, well respected in the Baton Rouge community, and it’s close to campus, so it’s going to be perfect for when we start going back in person and volunteering with them.”

Due to COVID-19, BEI is not currently able to volunteer in-person in retirement homes in order to protect the residents. However, due to the increase in vaccinations across the state, the organization is hoping to begin in-person volunteering in April.

Peyroux said this semester is a great opportunity for BEI to lay down its foundation so that when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the organization will be ready to go.

“We had a lot of time to think of how we wanted the club to work out,” said Peyroux.

Haynes said every LSU student can be a part of this organization, even though it has a big emphasis on medical treatment. He emphasized that every student can contribute to the service aspect of the organization.

“It’s easy, simple service,” Haynes said. “The service part of it isn’t tied to all this difficult STEM concept stuff. It’s just going in and engaging with the senior citizens.”

Peyroux said BEI provides training for all students to make sure that they are capable to adequately fulfill their duties for the organization. She said this is done to make sure that students who may be nervous at first will be more confident that they can succeed in their endeavors.

“We make sure you’re ready to be put in that environment,” Peyroux said.

Peyroux and Haynes said that going forward, they are hoping to acquire more members and spread their service to additional working homes in their efforts to grow the organization and make it a mainstay at LSU for years to come, even after they both graduate.

“Knowing that we can make a difference in our community in a big way is really exciting,” Haynes said.

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