A couple weeks ago, I shared with you that I’m starting a new line of work. It isn’t a full time position. In fact, I’ll just be working at this particular facility once a month. I have to admit I was apprehensive about this, because I’m no spring chicken and I didn’t feel I had the knowledge or where-with-all to encourage seniors.
When I arrived and people slowly filtered into the room, I became more encouraged. One lady, already in the room, was napping, and I knew right away I was going to have to work hard to maintain my audience. As each resident arrived, I began to talk to them about what they did in their younger lives. I discovered that a few of them were teachers. Some were stay at home moms. One continued to remind me that she was 92 – but she didn’t look a day over 70. All of them are suffering with memory loss – some more extreme than others.
As I began my acting class with them, I could tell I was losing one or two of them. So I had to punch up my act. Slowly, yet surely, I was able to get almost all of them to participate – not by my own doing – but because they were actually beginning to perform and enjoying it. Some preferred to watch, but that was OK too, because the others needed an audience.
After talking about how an actor needs to rely on memory, concentration and adding life skills to the mix, I could see a new sparkle in some of those lovely eyes. It was so much fun to see them responding and participating.
I’m not an expert on memory care, but now that I’m considered an old lady, I feel I have to work hard to keep my own memory sharp. I can forget things within seconds. I believe, when we’re not called upon to use our brains, they slow down just like our bodies do if we don’t exercise them.
The second part of my class was to talk a little about writing, journaling and poetry. At that point an elderly gentleman entered the room with his daughter. He apologized for the state of his memory. He was sad he’d lost so much of his early life through this malady. He proceeded to read some of the poetry he’d written when younger. My eyes welled with tears as the confidence slowly built in his presentation. I could see him reliving the memory he’d created on paper. When he finished and the audience applauded, a sweet smile lifted the corners of his mouth. Affirmation is so rewarding.
I encouraged the others to start writing things down as they remembered them – to keep a journal – to experiment with words and exercise that part of themselves which held all those hidden memories. By doing so, they are leaving an amazing legacy for future generations.
This was way too much fun to be considered work.