2021 Grants Challenge

Virtual YouthCare, a Memory and Respite Care Program

Virtual YouthCare is an intergenerational respite and memory care program. For one hour, twice a week, student-senior pairs play games, participate in artistic activities, and deliver the research-backed Brain Boot Camp to help address cognitive decline - all in a virtual setting. Our program aims to help family caregivers reduce stress, address social isolation for persons with dementia (PWDs), and prepare students for careers in aging.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

There are 6.2 million people in America with Alzheimer’s Disease, and over 160,000 live in Los Angeles. There are over 11 million unpaid caregivers in America, and as many as half a million in LA alone. Caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s or dementia can lead to financial, emotional, and physical difficulties, therefore leading to other health problems. More than 40% of these family caregivers of people with dementia develop depression, a rate much higher than seen in non-dementia caregivers. On top of this, there are not enough students entering fields of aging to fulfill the workforce needs that the rising aging population requires. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the already common issue of social isolation that older adults face has been exacerbated. Older adults have experienced a disruption in their routines and an inability to meet and connect with loved ones. This affects both persons with dementia and their caregivers.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

YouthCare, an intergenerational respite care program that partners trained student volunteers with older adults who have early-to-mid stage dementia, addresses these issues of depression in caregivers, social isolation in older adults, and workforce development in students. Volunteers meet with PWDs for 3 hours, twice a week to engage in memory care activities. YouthCare was set to launch 3/9/20 but was postponed due to COVID. Last fall, we successfully transitioned it to a virtual setting and continued to serve families from the safety of their homes. Virtual YouthCare maintains the program structure of in-home YouthCare, with several adaptations to better meet the needs of our participants. The sessions were reduced to 1 hour, twice a week to account for the likelihood of lower attention spans of older adults when interacting via Zoom. Student volunteers meet caregivers once a week to discuss the progress through the BrainBootCamp curriculum, developed by UCLA Longevity Center to stimulate concentration and memory. This model is a win-win-win for caregivers, students, and PWDs. By giving caregivers a break, YouthCare improves their quality of life and empowers them to provide better care for their loved ones. By providing students with volunteer experience, YouthCare inspires them to join the fight against AD and increases interest in fields of aging. By providing PWDs with a consistent friendly face, YouthCare fights social isolation and brings light back into their lives.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 200

Indirect Impact: 2,400

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

For our Fall 2020 cycle of Virtual YouthCare, 83% of the student volunteers who responded were satisfied with the program. In addition, 85% of the families returned to participate in the current Spring 2021 cycle. We are already seeing students who are more interested in Alzheimer’s awareness and families who feel engaged and supported. If Virtual YouthCare continues to be successful, we will see a decrease in the rates of depression, stress, and/or anxiety in caregivers of those living with dementia. Caregivers will be healthier and better able to care for themselves and others. Older adults will have formed intergenerational bonds and be able to age in place for longer. Students will have increased interest in careers in aging, bolstering the aging workforce in LA and California. Overall, we will have a healthier, happier, more engaged community and will have made LA a better place to live.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Virtual YouthCare’s success will be defined by its ability to reach its ultimate objective of decreasing the prevalence of depression in caregivers of PWDs in LA who use this program by 10% after participating in one program cycle. We administer a pre- and post-program survey to determine if participants have successfully achieved the selected metrics. By monitoring levels of depression, we are able to quantify the individual and aggregate impact Virtual YouthCare has made on the participating caregivers. Our volunteers track the PWDs’ progress through the program and make qualitative observations regarding PWD improvement and engagement. Our staff also monitors student satisfaction with their volunteer experience and integrates their feedback into improving the program. With over 80% student satisfaction and over 80% of families returning to participate, we recognize that Virtual YouthCare meets our goals of activating students in aging and alleviating the burden of caregiving.

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

The USC School of Gerontology provides a pool of student volunteers. Their professors also serve as advisors for YouthCare. We collaborated with the UCLA Longevity Center to create a memory care program that can be delivered by our student volunteers. Alzheimer’s Los Angeles acts as a referral partner and helps train our students on cultural diversity in the dementia community. The National Center on Elder Abuse help train our students on elder abuse and neglection prevention HFC acts as a promotional and referral partner. They also help train our students on brain health using their AlzU courses. UsAgainstAlzheimer’s serves as our nonprofit’s larger partner organization and helps us find funds for cost subsidies. The USC Family Caregiver Support Center is our main referral partner.

Which of the LIVE metrics will you impact?​

Resilient communities

Older adult well-being

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the healthiest place to CONNECT