The Town Square Sarasota center is a recreation of an idealized 1950s past.
Michael Finn has been digging through the past.
Over the past year, Finn and his wife have jumped into their car and searched around Sarasota at various flea markets, yard sales and other second-hand locations for a very specific type of memorabilia — 1950s keepsakes and collectibles.
They've found old records, vintage wall art, and plenty of Life magazines.
It’s been a fun hobby, but there's purpose to their search. The best pieces — the ones that feel truly authentic — are added to the Town Square Sarasota senior day center, a newly opened space with a specific visual style. The center holds 10 shops and businesses all styled like authentic 1950s businesses, including a malt shop, a movie theater and a general store.
The heightened environment serves a specific purpose — helping seniors living with dementia become more comfortable in a setting that evokes their past.The Town Square center officially opened a few weeks ago and has catered to senior citizens day in and day out.
It’s a relief for the new owner, to say the least.
“Going out and finding all this (memorabilia) was the fun part,” Finna said. “Going through a construction project during COVID was less fun.”
Finn fell into the senior care industry after decades of working in New York’s advertising industry. Finn and his wife decided on pursuing a business that would have a community impact.
When they were pitched the idea of a senior center that emphasized reminiscence therapy, it reminded Finn of when his mother volunteered at Alzheimer’s centers by singing to the residents.
"When she sang the old songs, people with Alzheimer’s remembered the lyrics,” Finn said. “(Reminiscence therapy) made sense to me when it was pitched.”
The senior center is designed like a 1950s Main Street with themed storefronts that hold activities and programs for visitors. Each room can hold around eight seniors who are being supervised by center staff.
The library holds classic books, the diner boasts a working jukebox with throwback hits and the center even has a room paying tribute to veterans. It's Finn's hope that the many small details he and staff have accumulated over the months will make visiting seniors feel more at ease.
The original plan was to build the center in Missouri but Finn’s business partner Wendy Rickenbach invited him to establish a location in Sarasota. Town Square is a franchise with a location in New Jersey with more centers planned in other states.
Now that the center has opened, Finn is looking at starting another location in Sarasota and eventually one in Bradenton as well. It'll be some work to get started again, but Finn is excited to look for vintage items once more.
"We're going to have to start all over again," Finn said. "At least we know the places to go to now."
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