As you know, we feel that stories are extremely important for wellbeing.
When we asked for volunteers for National Storytelling Week, we explained that Storytelling rewires the neurons in your brain, making new connections between what you hear and your own memories, emotions & experiences. It has also been shown to benefit older adults in both residential and day centres in several ways. It provides mental stimulation and positive social connections, it improves memory and increases activity*.
Storytelling also increases positive emotions, especially when it’s experienced as part of a group, and this can have a beneficial effect on resilience (the ability to bounce back from difficulty) in older adults.
So we were thrilled that customers at Pinfold Lane Day Centre were treated to their first Shared Reading session led by Jean Swanson last month, which, as a part of the Customer Contact and Engagment Team, I was lucky enough to go to.
Jean, a librarian for , has recently trained in dementia focused Shared Reading with . Shared Reading involves reading aloud and discussing poems and stories. It's suitable for everyone, readers and non-readers, and is purely about 'the pleasure of the written word shared with others'.
Because the first meeting took place on Burns Night, Jean shared "O, my luve is like a red, red rose", which brought back memories for many of the group, such as "Dad used to sing this", "takes me back to school". After a relaxed discussion about the meaning of the poem, the group's resident Scot, Trixie, re-read the poem in the accent of its composer and the group then sang it together. The next poem was "Daffodils" by William Wordsworth. "How does this make you feel?" asked Jean. "Like outside" and "relaxing" were some of the responses. The group then looked at another Robert Burns poem, "A rosebud by my early walk" and then finished with a traditional tale "The Magic Jar".
Every member of the group was given a copy of each poem to look at and to take away with them. It was obvious that even people who didn't actively participate in the discussion were soothed by the words which had been shared and by the easy, informal, reminiscing tone of the session. I could see that everyone was visibly more relaxed by the end of it.
No one should feel they have to contribute during these sessions and I would recommend it highly as a relaxing activity which is suitable for everyone. The group will be meeting every second, third and fourth Thursday - find out more about it and find out more about Pinfold Lane Day Centre .
Customer Contact and Engagement Officer
*(Sierpina & Cole, 2004)
(Mager, Barbara J. R. and Stevens, Lou Ann M., "The Effects of Storytelling on Happiness and Resilience in Older Adults" (2015).