Poetry is a powerful way to connect with senior citizens and the elderly. With a strong emotional factor, poems can trigger long-forgotten memories, inspire and entrtain the elderly if they mention situations they experienced in their youth or young adulthood.
Poems are great scripts for spoken word performances and the length of the performance can be tailored to the attention span and capabilities of the listeners.
Some Ideas for Poetry Activities for the Elderly.
Poems can be used as a form Reader’s Theatre script.
Readers’ Theatre is where participants read a play script, each ” actor” takes a role and reads the lines of that character. Short comedy plays work best and so can poetry.
No memorizing is needed and the play can be read several times, either with the same actors reading the same lines or changing actors to read different roles for second or third readings.
Poems as Reader’s Theatre for Seniors
Poems can be used in the same way as a Readers Theatre play script in a senior residence setting.
The verses of the poem can be divided among the group of residents and different residents read a verse each. Either each resident is given a copy of the whole poem, or the poem cut up into verse and one verse given to each resident.
The latter method has the advantage of being less confusing. No text to follow, no page marking needed.
On a first read-through, it is alright and delightful to stop at the end of a verse for some discussion if the verse triggers a memory for the reader or another resident.
Poetry As Therapy for the Very Elderly
Where the residents such as dementia and Alzheimers sufferers, in Nursing homes, Elderly Care Facilities, Retirement Communities are not able to read the poems by themselves, a facilitator or presenter is needed.
The presenter doesn’t need to be a trained presenter. A member of staff or willing community volunteer who is interested, has a good clear reading voice, and patience, will do just fine.
Reading or hearing poems that are familiar to most people can trigger memories, as poems learned as a child or in later school years. Poems such as ” Dreams” by Langston Hughes, The Tyger by William Blake, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth. Famous poems give residents the opportunity to join in, if they can.
The poems we publish via our Unicorn Bay Press imprint are recommended for reading aloud in the category of poems called Spoken Word. They are autobiographical and speak of the experiences of the poets who wrote them.
Poems as Memories of Lived Experience
Lenny Lianne’s ABC’s of Memory, is a collection of poems containing memories of 20th Century Americana, that will trigger memories in any elderly group. It is an excellent choice for such readings or performances.
The poems span fifty years of American history and cultural landmarks that elderly Americans will remember, have associations with and opinions about.
The volume is two collections of poems, packed with the sights, sounds and smells of America; poems that mention Girl Guides, Ty Cobb, American states, Elvis, many quintessential American foods: burgers, cotton candy, cheese, toys like Mr. Potato Head Kit, Wonder Bread, Sugar Pops and references to many other iconic foods advertised on TV.
These are all delightful memory-jogging poems, each of an acceptable length for seniors to listen to without losing interest or focus.