A new activity at Catholic Healthcare Jemalong Residential Village in Forbes is proving very popular. Every Sunday afternoon a group of 20 plus residents are meeting to chat, have a glass of a favourite tipple, and discuss poetry.
Poetry and Port, as it is known, was suggested by resident Barbara, a 94-year old retired speech and drama teacher. Barbara discussed the idea with Merryl Morris, Jemalong’s Recreational Activities Officer, and together Poetry and Port became a reality.
“Speech and drama can have a positive impact on a person,” says Barbara. “Some of the residents were not confident in the beginning and now everyone is keen to participate, bringing their books, reading poems and discussing ideas. Every Sunday more residents are joining in and we even have family members and friends coming along.”
Residents share some of their favourite pieces of literature and Merryl arranges books to share. Special requests not available on the day are sourced on the internet and printed for the following week. Residents are assisted to read a poem of their own choice aloud, in turn using a microphone. Others prefer just to listen and let others read.
“Aussie favourites such as Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson are always popular,” says Merryl. “The sessions increase brain activity, elevate the mood of the residents and boost self-esteem. It encourages choice and decision making, improves vocabulary and verbal dexterity as well as providing social interaction. We have even had poets from the local community come along to share their work.”
Several studies have shown that reading and writing can help to improve memory and other cognitive functions.
“In the same way that walking can help your health just as much as running, reading a poem is just as beneficial to your brain as reading any other type of literature,” says Merryl. “Research has also shown that reading is a skill that a person living with dementia may maintain for some time. This activity is a great way to encourage participation and promote self-esteem for all residents.”
Poetry and Port fan Paul, a retired ophthalmologist, enjoys the educational aspect of the activity.
“As the saying goes ‘as you think, so you are’,” says Paul. “It’s great to meet up, listen to each other and enjoy a lively discussion about each poem. It keeps our minds active which helps us feel good about ourselves.”
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Pictured: Residents, Audrey (left) and Barbara enjoying a Poetry and Port session