Can poetry ease the boredom of locking and stimulate the brain and memory?
While many studies indicate that poetry can boost memory in people with dementia (see here) in one nursing home, a chaplain used poetry as a springboard to much more for many more people.
Since late 2019, Reverend Hugh Vincent Dyer has been a frequent visitor to nursing home residents, serving among the 360 residents for Catholics. At the beginning of the pandemic, he withdrew to prevent them from passing anything on to them. But it was a casual conversation with one resident that gave him an idea.
Poetry in the Air
During a talk, as told in The Federalist, a resident remembered the pleasure of his long lessons with the poet W.H. Auden while a student at Columbia. " Poetry can do a lot to refresh the memories of the residents," Dyer said. With that thought in mind, he became creative.
With the internal PA system of the nursing home, Father Dyer broadcasts what he calls "Cultural Variety" twice a week. The idea is simple. He considers various subjects or topics and then devises creative ways to connect them with poetry and art.
Topics don't have to be & # 39; heavy & # 39; or to be serious. In a recent "Cultural Variety" discussion, Father Dyer focused on trees and described their relationship to culture and writing. He used "A Ballad of Trees and the Master", a short poem by Sidney Lanier (1
His poetic "jump-offs" are usually short poems, but sometimes they are children's stories that everyone remembers. Reading & # 39; The Builders & # 39; (link here), a retelling of & # 39; The Three Little Pigs & # 39 ;, for example, was an unexpected way to consider the virtues of hard work and perseverance.
One poem Dyer shared during his program that proved to be particularly popular with residents was "The Plain Facts" by British poet Ruth Pitter (1897-1992), which tells of the joy of life, making friends and smile. "People went to this poem just before Covid really struck," Dyer recalls.
Communication isn't all in one direction: he shared "Simon the Cyrenian Speaks" (link here) by Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen (1903-1946)) after one of the residents, a retired Harlem teacher, told him asked to read it in his program.
Films in the mix
Other cultural experiences also make sense. Father Dyer introduced films, which were broadcast from the house to individual rooms via the CCTV system. Favorites include "Show Boat", classic Bing Crosby movie, "Going My Way", a concert by late jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams, and Kirov Ballet performance of "Swan Lake"  "To me, [providing cultural outlets to residents] was just an acknowledgment that our elders have lived in this city for many years," Fr. Dyer said. "And although the museums and other cultural institutions are currently closed or no longer accessible to them, they can still access culture."
The full profile can be read on the Federalist website.