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Honorary degree for leading academic and dementia advocate

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Honorary degree for leading academic and dementia advocate

Thursday 4 December 2014

The University of Salford awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree to Visiting Professor Dr. John Zeisel in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the research and treatment of dementia and related illnesses and for his achievements in helping people to live well with dementia.

He was presented with the accolade at the University’s winter graduation ceremony on Wednesday, 3 December.

Dr. Zeisel, Scientific Advisor to the Salford Institute for Dementia and Visiting Professor at Salford’s School of the Built Environment, said upon receiving the award: “This great honour is not only mine, but belongs as well to all those in the UK and globally working hard to provide non-pharmacological - often arts and community-based - opportunities for those living with dementia so that they may have a life worth living, which is their human right.”

Professor Maggie Pearson, the University’s Pro Vice Chancellor for Public Benefit and Dean of the College of Health & Social Care, in presenting Dr. Zeisel with the honour, said: “Despite his illustrious interdisciplinary academic career, Dr John Zeisel is not an academic who sits in an ivory tower. He is a shining example of a passionate academic who puts theory into practice for the public good.”

Professor Pearson added: “Dr. Zeisel has made a profound, groundbreaking contribution to the way in which we conceive of and respond to ageing in the modern postindustrial world. In emphasising the humanity of older people, Dr. Zeisel has enriched the lives of many people, young and not so young, by placing older people’s personhood, humanity and current personal possibilities centre stage, rather than seeing them as relics of a former person with lost or reduced capacities. His emphasis on the person still here before us, should underpin our day-to-day interactions as citizens and our professional practice with all people living with the long term consequences of  life changing injuries, or long term degenerative conditions or learning disabilities.”

Dr. Zeisel is President of Hearthstone Alzheimer Care, manages six assisted living residences for people living with Alzheimer’s in New York and Massachusetts, and the not-for-profit Im Still Here Foundation, which promotes non-pharmacological treatment approaches for dementia, including design of the physical environment, music, communication, caregiver education and art.

After receiving his doctorate in Sociology from Columbia University and a Loeb Fellow degree from Harvard's Graduate School of Design, Dr. Zeisel taught at Yale University, Montréal’s McGill University and Harvard University’s School of Architecture. Since 2008, Dr. Zeisel has been a member of the Comité Pedagogique de l’enseignement at the Sorbonne Pierre & Marie Curie University in Paris, where he teaches in the University Diploma course on “Alzheimers and Related Disorders: Cognitive Approaches, Psychotherapies, Behaviors, and Environmental Design.”

In 2014 Dr. Zeisel was appointed Scientific Advisor to the newly formed Salford Institute for Dementia.

Among his numerous awards, Dr. Zeisel received the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) Career Award for his life’s work in environmental design and research in 1998 and was honoured by appointment to the Board of Directors of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA) in 2005.

In addition to numerous articles, Dr. Zeisel is the author of Im Still Here: A Breakthrough Approach to Understanding Someone Living with Alzheimers (Little, Brown, 2010.

His textbook on environmental design and neuroscience Inquiry by Design: Environment / Behavior / Neuroscience in Architecture, Interiors, Landscape, & Planning was published by W. W. Norton (2006.)

Dr. Zeisel is host of the monthly Cable TV program—Hopeful Aging—with a mission to create a life worth living for all of us as we age, including those living with cognitive challenges, by enriching lives and offering hope.

Dr. Zeisel’s  most recent contribution to the field, the result of a three-year clinical trial of a non-pharmacological intervention for people with dementia, is the Scripted-IMPROV Drama Programme—an evidence-based programme that reduces depression, while increasing engagement and quality of life for people living with dementia. It was created in partnership with Ladder to the Moon, a UK social enterprise.