We are offering a program for adult care and retirement facilities called Stories for Seniors. We have found that you are never “too old or too sick” to enjoy someone reading you a good story. What is unique about what we are doing is that we bring “props” along to accompany the storytelling. We pass the “props” out and the residents place the items on their laps. For example, when we read “Twas the Night before Christmas“, we brought Christmas afghans, stuffed animals, Christmas stockings, ornaments, holiday mugs, jingle bells – things that just gave an aura of holiday cheer. Perhaps, of memories of their younger years.
We decorated the “story area”, which was simply the TV room or dining area, where the Seniors gather, and made everything look like a scene from the pages of ‘Twas the Night before Christmas. We hung the ornaments and stockings to the sides of the wheelchairs. The problem we encountered was that when our story-telling session was over, the residents were so disappointed when we collected the blankets, ornaments, and stuffed animals and put everything back in our box. We needed our “props” for the next program at another senior care facility.
I posted this dilemma on Craigs List and a lady donated 200 new and nearly new stuffed animals, many with tags still on them. It was so wonderful to be able to let the residents select the stuffed animal that they wanted to keep, and their smiles were from ear to ear. They cuddled them and were so happy to have something to hold on to. I guess you are “never to old or too sick” to have a Teddy Bear to hold on to, either.
Some of the places that we visited with the stuffed animals and stories were Manor Care, the Artman Lutheran Home, and the Spring City and Northeast Phila VA medical facilities.
I went to a thrift store last week and bought some new props, things from the 1950’s , that would remind residents of the times when life looked like their favorite television shows. I remembered what the living rooms looked like on shows such as Leave It to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet, and the Donna Reed Show. The ages typically range from the mid-70’s to the late 90’s. There are some younger people there who may have suffered a stroke, had MS or tragically been in an accident. Some of the 1950’s items that I purchased were a Canasta card game, pie pans, wooden toys, a tea pot, a Raggedy Ann doll, a few baby dresses and bibs, a doll cradle, the Gone with the Wind movie, a plaid suitcase, and 25 Golden Books. including such favorites as the old original stories – Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, The Pokey Little Puppy, etc. With these 1950’s items of nostalgia, the residents are taken back to a simpler time and place in their lives, and their eyes sparkle as they talk about the good old days.
Even though, these seem like children’s stories, they are familiar and enjoyable stories for the residents to read again, in their later years. I tell them, some of the greatest lessons we ever learned, we learned from children’s books. We learned to share, to be kind and how to overcome fears and forgive others. We learned how to avoid mean people, and the consequences of not telling the truth. (Pinocchio) Those Golden Book stories taught us many other lessons about life.
Hansel and Gretel had to be resourceful to find their way out of the woods and Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and her friends taught us about courage. The residents ook at these classic stories, in their later years, from a different perspective. The stories open up discussions about times in their lives when they needed to be resourceful, when times were tough. Or, when they needed to be courageous when life threw them curve balls.
So, I am putting out the SOS for help. Would you like to go with me to read the stories to senior care residents? Do you work in a facility that would like a visit, to offer a program, Storytelling for Seniors?
What we really need now are stuffed animals and lap type blankets. Do you have any crocheted or knitted blankets in excellent condition? Or stuffed animals? Something cuddly, that we can give to each resident? How about those holiday type afghan blankets that a lot of people bought at Boscov’s and the department stores a few years ago? I think these items recall memories of a little touch of home. Many of the residents do not have relatives to visit them. These little tokens of caring mean the world to them.
I live in Chalfont, PA, near the Montgomery Mall. The best way to reach me is by phone since the Craig’s List postings bring a lot of Spam responses.
If you would like to see how this project evolved, please see the postings on our blog: www.storiesforseniors.wordpress.com
It all began, just a few weeks ago, on December 14th, 2009.
Thank you very much. I look forward to meeting with you or sharing ideas with you by phone. Cell: 267 939 0365