Your Resource for Aging Information & Best Practices in Senior Care

Purpose Statement:

The Birch Bay Retirement Village Learning Institute is dedicated to empowering health partners and community members with comprehensive training opportunities and educational programming focused on aging information and best practices in geriatric care. Through collaboration with esteemed experts, we aim to cultivate a supportive environment where individuals can acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to enhance the well-being and quality of life for aging populations. Our purpose is to foster excellence in geriatric care, ultimately contributing to the delivery of compassionate and effective healthcare services within our community.

Ways We Can Help:

  • Dementia Education
  • Healthy Aging classes for Seniors
  • Healthcare training for students including CRMA/CNA or PSS Certification Classes
  • Music Therapy presentations

Our partnership with the MDI Adult Education program has helped train students as certified nurse’s assistants.


We have provided education to:
  • Bangor Nursing & Rehab
  • Jesup Memorial Library
  • Hospice Volunteers of Hancock County
  • Mount Desert Island Hospital
  • MDI Behavioral Health Center


  • Mt Desert Nursing Association
  • MDI Housing Authorizy
  • Quarry Hill
  • Westgate Rehab & Living Center
  • Winterberry Heights
  • Woodlands Senior Living – Brewer

2023 – 2024 Series:

  • “Normal” vs “Not Normal” Aging Workshop (November 2023)
  • Medicare Hospice & Palliative Care Discussion (November 2023)
  • Health Living for your Brain & Body: Trips from the Latest Research (December 2023)
  • Blue Zones (January 2024)
  • Sentimental Journey: Music Therapy in the Treatment of Dementia (February 2024)
  • The Glow Method (April 8, 2024)
  • Hospice & Palliative Care Presentation (Topic pending) (Date: May, 2024 TBD)
  • Understanding Dementia: A Comprehensive Lecture and Workshop (June 2024 TBD)

Our Education Partners:

  • RSU 24 Adult Education
  • MDI Adult Education

Our Education Team

Melissa Violette, MT-BC, NMT

Melissa Violette is a board certified neurologic music therapist. Melissa brings her 26 years of music therapy experience in mental health. Melissa believes strongly in the healing power of music.

“I have the best job in the world! Music Therapy is my calling and, without question, what I was meant to do in life, as it combines my desire to help people with my passion for music. I want to make the world a better place in the time I have, even if it’s in a small way and just one person at a time.”

Melissa can provide education to area agencies about the benefits of music therapy.

Some Examples of Melissa’s Presentations

Aging, Dementia and What Matters Most

What is Music Therapy, the Benefits of Music Therapy with Dementia, How Caregivers can use music for self-care

Music Therapy & Dementia

Learn what Music Therapy is and is not, how Music effects the brain and the benefits of Music Therapy with Dementia.

Sentimental Journey; The role of Music Therapy in Elder Care

What is Music Therapy, and how can it benefit the Elders at your facility and why you need to have it at your establishment.

James Hoke, MBA, CDP

Our Director of Programs & Resident Engagement James Hoke is a Certified Dementia Practitioner by the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners, a leading organization in developing standards, guidelines, and educational programs for professionals and caregivers who strive to meet the diverse needs of those who suffer from dementia. James provides educational and interactive programs and presentations on dementia and life enrichment topics to individuals, caregivers, and our local community.

Some Examples of James’s Presentations

Habilitation Therapy Approach to Person-Centered Dementia Care

Person-Centered Dementia Care: A Habilitation Therapy Training Curriculum is a 13-hour professional training program by the Alzheimer’s Association which successfully incorporates the evidence-based Dementia Care Practice Recommendations in the following topic areas: Alzheimer’s and dementia, person-centered care, assessment and care planning, activities of daily living, behaviors and communications, and supporting families and caring for ourselves.

Life Enrichment: Re-Discovering Purpose through Engagement

Learn how dementia can affect one’s self-image, meaning in life, and sense of purpose, and how Life Enrichment approaches reconnecting individuals living with dementia to finding meaning and purpose in their lives through social, sensory, physical, and mental engagement, and why it is important.

Confronting Bias & Considering Multiple Perspectives

This is a short, 30-minute introductory presentation that James includes with all of his dementia care presentations. As a disease, dementia does not just affect the person living with it, but the person’s entire social circle. Many people within that circle will have to adjust to a new role, new relationship, new routine, new social interactions, and more, and these changes can be stressful. All of our minds work to protect us from these stresses and sometimes in ways that are not beneficial to us or those living with dementia who we care for. It is incredibly important that we examine how we think about the world, the disease, and all of the changes there within. It is important that we question how our minds work, how we form specific conclusions and thoughts so that we may ensure our thoughts are authentic and grounded in the reality of this disease.

Positive Approach to Care Series

The Positive Approach to Care series includes three separate workshops, each between 1 – 3 hours in length that include a mix of classroom and hands-on education. The series works with the Adult Experiential Learning Cycle, which progresses learners through a cycle of experiencing something, sharing the experience with others, processing the experience, connecting the experience with the greater lesson, and applying the lesson to future experiences. All three workshops are themed around gaining a better understanding of the people living with dementia and improving their lives by changing the culture of care, one mind at a time.

Workshop A: “Normal” versus “Not Normal” Aging

This 2-hour workshop helps learners understand and recognize the differences in “normal” and “not normal” aging. The learner will develop better observational skills to recognize and intervene effectively when behavioral challenges occur. Learners will develop new skills related to approach, cueing, and ability to connect with people affected by dementia. This workshop emphasizes the value of matching helping behaviors to the person’s needs and retained abilities to promote a sense of control and self-direction. The workshop will also address typical issues that occur from early stages of the condition, through mid-disease, and into the final care concerns that are part of the progression.

Workshop B: Positive Physical Approach™ and Hand-under-Hand™

  • This 3-hour workshop helps learners change their habits as a result of understanding vision changes and space awareness. The learner will better understand the changing brain, being able to describe changes in visual processing that impact a person’s ability to initiate interactions and respond to efforts to communicate and interact that are initiated by others, when dementia is present. The learner will compare and contrast unintentional and traditional social greeting and communication efforts with PPA™ structured interactions as it relates to reactions and responses from the person living with dementia. The learner will discuss the rationale that supports each step of the PPA™ process and demonstrate PPA™ in simulated situations, using at least 75% of all steps with coaching support. The learner will discuss reasons for and steps in modifying PPA™ for specific “special cases” (blindness, deafness, sleeping, mental health issue, stroke, etc.). Lastly, the learner will better understand challenging behaviors using Hand-under-Hand™ to promote mobility and assistance with ADLs by discussing the purpose and value of using Hand-under-Hand™ technique with people living with dementia. The learner will demonstrate Hand-under-Hand™ technique in at least four out of seven possible applications (greeting, comforting, attention, mobility, task initiation, tool/utensil use, and participation in tasks and activities).

Workshop C: Seeing GEMS® As More than Just Loss: Progression Patterns

In this 1-hour workshop, learners will describe 3 number-based systems that are used to label stages/progression of dementia. Learners will discuss the value and importance of seeing people living with dementia as having retained abilities, value, and benefiting from the right support and care to optimize performance and quality of life. Learners will identify 6 GEMS—highlighting GEMS state characteristics, and will compare and contrast the 6 states of cognitive function and ability as GEMS. Finally, learners will use structured tables to correctly identify GEMS states in shared scenarios through behaviors, abilities, and sensory processing examples.

For more information on our education opportunities, call Birch Bay at 288-8014.

Learn more about Birch Bay Retirement Village

For more information or to arrange a tour, call 207-288-8014 or complete our contact form