On Tuesday morning, 16 residents gathered in a circle along with several staff members while the founder of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, Gary Glazner, recited poems in a repeat-after-me format, according to the Leader-Telegram.
“This is a poetry party,” Glazner said to the residents as the session began.
Starting with Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” Glazner recited numerous bird-themed poems throughout the morning, encouraging participation by the staff and residents to make the time as interactive as possible.
From clapping out the rhythm of poems to introducing song into the mix, the morning was filled with more than words on a page.
As they got more involved, some of the elderly residents began to smile, mimic Glazner’s actions and answer his questions. And this was only the second day of a three-month training program that will equip the facility’s staff with new ways to interact with residents beyond regular poetry sessions.
“They learn different methods and techniques of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project,” Glazner said. “They learn to use those to create poetry sessions but also to use them in other activities, like for bingo or for baking.”
What the participants get out of the project, which is funded by the state Department of Health Services, is an improved quality of life, Glazner said. In order to assess this, he said the staff administers before and after surveys to see if residents have experienced an attitude shift through the program.
River Pines is one of 20 nursing homes in the state to receive this training, but Glazner, who is from Brooklyn, N.Y., said this program has so far been taught across 32 states and seven countries.
“It’s a privilege to be able to be part of their lives and hopefully have some effect, make it a little bit funny and humorous,” Glazner said of the nursing home residents he works with. “Ultimately, it helps us reframe the story of dementia because we see that they will learn and they will get better at this, and that’s not the story we tell with dementia.”
Read all about how art helps heal at the Leader-Telegram.