I spent some time at Columbine Manor, a long term care community here in Salida, CO. As part of the residency we are asked to do a “give back” event to the community. I chose the only LTC community for my give back day as they are often the forgotten members of our greater community. The week of Mother’s Day is always National Nursing Home Week and May is always Older Adult Month.
What we did:
All About Water: I visited with the Volunteer Director upon my arrival here and set up a date for May. She shared with me their lump of air dry clay that needed to be reconstituted which I reworked for our use. The amazing activity staff gathered up about 20 or so interested individuals. We had introductions; I shared my work from my laptop (as a projector meant to be lent was broken/unavailable) and why I was here in Salida; I talked about Colorado Art Ranch and the theme of water for this residency. I brought in the tools I was working with: my large mold, shovel, buckets, and my dirty gloves. I shared some passages and imagery from some resources about water. I had everyone close their eyes and I conducted a simple guided imagery exercise while having them visualize a special place in their life that had water. I asked them to think about whom they were with. What they smelled, heard, tasted, and touched in addition to their surroundings. I asked the participants to breath deeply throughout and then asked them to gently open their eyes. Some individuals shared their experience and thoughts about water, their memories, the environment, and life in Colorado with water. One person shared her experience as a young girl, going to a healing pool in western Washington where her asthma was cured. Another person shared his memories of swimming in the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center and “making a lot of bubbles” he said with a smile. We shared a cool glass of water.
With assistance we passed out clay slabs to make “postcards” of their favorite place that included water. Another participant made her postcard with lots of waves, moving her arm around as if conducting the clay into place. A person with memory challenges and an artistic background (she made many fashion sketches for clothing and patterns) made hers a literal postcard and wrote a simple message to her son seated next to her. They were both pleased to be embarking on a project together and to utilize creative skills from a lifetime.
I salute the professionals and para professionals who work in long term care every day. As a Certified Recreation Therapist Specialist and consultant in long term care (and 30 yrs of experience in long term care communities) I challenge all of us to discover ways of integrating elders into our lives creatively and often. If you need some names and numbers in the Chicago (or Salida) area, I would be obliged.