Seated in a semicircle, five individuals who are part of the Redwood Area Hospital Caring Connections program talk about their favorite gifts.
As each of them talked about those gifts they received, one could see each of them picturing that gift in their mind.
Whether it was a pocket knife or an acreage to help them start farming, one could also tell they appreciated those gifts they received.
Why was this group sharing these special thoughts from their past?
They were being asked by two individuals, Jason Garton and Meagan Adams, who work with CLIMB Theatre as part of a new program.
The Caring Connections program was one of 41 sites around the state who were able to take part in the CLIMB project, which Jessica Hassler, CLIMB Theatre outreach coordinator, said was made possible because of an arts access grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
“We know staff who work with the elderly, especially those with dementia, are understaffed,” said Hassler, adding the visits were offered at no cost.
At each site there were four visits conducted, and during those visits CLIMB actors facilitated discussions that focused on memories of the past. After breaking the ice with some sort of activity, such as sharing one’s favorite gift, the group would continue discussions on a particular topic. Hassler said in addition to getting participants to talk about their memories those memories shared were then written into a script of sorts that is then acted out by the program participants.
“This program is helping bring the arts to outstate Minnesota,” said Lynn Buck-ley of the Caring Connections program. “We don’t have a lot of access to that out here.”
Arts projects, added Buckley, whether it is theater, painting or some other medium, can be a great way to initiate creativity and to facilitate memories of the past.
When working with those who have dementia, helping them recall memories in this sort of venue takes the pressure off of them.
It’s not about asking them what they remember about specific things so much as it is finding ways to help them recall memories, said Hassler.
Buckley said those who were taking part in the local program had positive reactions, and she admitted some of them likely had never done anything like this before.
Research continues to show arts can be a form of therapy for everyone regardless of their age, and Buckley said she truly sees the value in offering programs like this.
She is hoping to have the group come out again in the future to continue the pro-gress that might have been made during the four sessions that were held.
Page 2 of 2 - Hassler said CLIMB is pursuing another grant to continue this project in the hopes of creating a long-term program that it can use in a variety of settings statewide.
“So many of the people really loved it,” said Hassler.
Those who would like more information about this or other CLIMB Theatre programs can visit its Web site at www.climb.org.
Information about the Caring Connections program can be found at www.redwoodareahospital.org.