How one nursing home is helping its residents regain a sense of purpose.

Every day, you can find Greg Moore taking two kittens for a walk.

Moore, who has Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, once worked for the government as a communications lobbyist. He moved into Catalina Springs Memory Care facility in 2014 when he was only 67 years old because his illnesses made it too difficult for his wife to care for him on her own.

According to Antoinette Manning, resident care coordinator at Catalina Springs, Moore doesn't usually want to be bothered or speak to anyone. He occasionally perceives normal social interaction as threatening. It's understandable: Many people who move to senior living centers at the end of long, productive, lives — especially those experiencing forms dementia — find themselves frustrated.


As for the two kittens? They're part of a new program called "Bottle Babies" that allows senior living residents to feed and play with kittens who are in need of constant care.

Photo via Pima Animal Care Center, used with permission.

Taking care of these kittens infuses many of Catalina Springs' residents with a renewed sense of purpose.  

"We have some residents who are chronically searching, chronically looking for something that is familiar, something that holds meaning to them," Rebecca Hamilton, the health service director at Catalina Springs, wrote in an email.

"We can place one of the kittens in their hands, and suddenly they're not searching, they're not stressed."

Photo via Pima Animal Care Center, used with permission.

Hamilton came up with the idea to bring the kittens to the facility. She's a veteran kitten fosterer at Pima Animal Care Center and knows that really young kittens require constant care. She thought having the residents at Catalina Springs look after them might be a mutually beneficial program.

From the moment the kittens arrived, the staff noticed a significant, positive change in the residents' moods.

"They [seem to] recognize them as babies, and the human instinct to nurture just kicks in automatically," Hamilton explained.

Photo via Pima Animal Care Center, used with permission.

"We have noticed that [in] interacting with the kittens, we have residents who struggled with putting complete sentences together, or struggled to find words, could all of a sudden communicate," Hamilton explained about the kittens' effect on the residents. "They could look at you and say, 'This kitten is hungry' or 'I love this little baby.'"

It's a win-win relationship. The residents help feed and play with the kittens, and the kittens, in turn, give the residents a sense of purpose. Those moments of clarity and communication that the kittens bring out in their human caretakers are "incredibly monumental," Hamilton said. According to the staff at Catalina Springs, that feeling of being useful and productive can often be the best medicine when dealing with an incurable disease.

Photo via Pima Animal Care Center, used with permission.

As for Greg Moore? His standoffishness softened the minute he met Turtle and Peaches, Manning said.

Moore has a daily routine where he puts a kitten under each arm, announces that "it's time for their walk," and walks them around the facility. Manning said even his wife has noticed a difference in his demeanor since the kittens arrived.

"It’s like they’re grandparents again," Manning said. "It’s very soothing to see."

Photo via Pima Animal Care Center, used with permission.

The program is bigger than kittens. It’s about finding a way to improve quality of life for people in assisted living and giving them a renewed sense purpose.

Few people want to think about what life will be like when they reach an age where they can no longer care for themselves, especially if their memory is failing. But there are a lot of ways these centers are making sure residents feel important, needed, and loved. Clemson Downs, an assisted living facility, had an art show featuring its residents' work, and Lantern Assisted Living in Ohio is revamping their whole facility to feel more like real homes rather than hospital rooms. Even just a change in scenery can change a resident's outlook.

Pima Animal Care Center is also planning to expand soon, and several other animal welfare organizations have expressed interest in starting similar programs. Pet therapy is known to benefit patients living with these mental illnesses immensely, so it's encouraging to see the idea catching on.

Alzheimer's and dementia may be incurable, but that doesn't mean life ends with a diagnosis. People like Tom Dunne who has Alzheimer's keep moving forward by writing (and tweeting). Paul Hitchmough, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2014 records his own music videos on YouTube. And Craig Moore makes sure to take the Catalina Springs kitten residents for a walk everyday.

Even a small thing like that can be enough to make life a little better.

Photo via Pima Animal Care Center, used with permission.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."