Thursday Tidbits

Posted on January 17, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

Mini library at Redfern Park – Victoria, B.C.


I think it is fair to say that young children, who have been read to by parents or grandparents, have a distinct edge, not only when they start school but with life in general. Young people are sponges and learn at an astonishing pace. When the light finally goes on and they start to string words together, it is absolutely magical.

But what happens at the other end of the spectrum when the light begins to dim, when eyesight fails or words themselves become incomprehensible? The aging process robs many people of their innate abilities and very often their dignity.

I spend a lot of time with an elderly population, performing music at one of our excellent local nursing homes. I see the power of music as it reawakens memories of the past. In the last days of my mother’s life, when conversations about everyday things was no longer possible, we spoke to each other through music.

Most of us know how difficult it is when a loved one is ill, hospitalized for a long time or is spending their final days in a nursing home. You run out of things to talk about. Much of the conversation revolves around health and how they are feeling on any given day. It often leads to depressing small talk. This grows old quickly and become tedious for all involved. What can one do to fill this void?

Story telling.

I read an excellent piece in last weekend’s Globe and Mail by Meghan Cox Gurdon called “Magic Words.” Here’s what she had to say: “Reading aloud is something we associate with children and bedtime stories. But for grownups, and especially the elderly, it can also tie us together, improve our minds and ease our loneliness.” While her piece is not ground breaking it certainly reaffirms that reading at every age has positive outcomes.

Not everyone can sing or play a musical instrument but most people know how to read. The next time you visit someone sick or infirm, why not try bringing along a few books and reading a paragraph or two.  I have found that playing songs from a different era easily engages the elderly. It’s what they know and what they like. My hunch is that it would be the same with books. But one never knows. Something splendid and spellbinding like Harry Potter might work too!

More and more nursing homes are seeing the value of therapy dog visits, cats wandering the halls, birds chirping in cages, along with art classes, gardening, writing classes and improv. Let’s face it; these are all the things of our childhood that made life joyous and wondrous. We were constantly improvising, spending time with pets and drawing, singing and reading.

I just wrapped up my three week dog sitting gig in Victoria. I am not a lifelong dog person but I really enjoyed my twice daily walks with Cooper and having his company around the house. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!

Have a great weekend.

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