Literature a link to past at Henderson memory care facility

While listening to a reading of “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson, Shirley Gregg recalled a time, decades ago, when she was told the same story by her two older sisters.

Gregg, 97, is one of 67 residents at Poet’s Walk Henderson. She was participating in the new weekly reading sessions at the memory care facility, which supports residents who have Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

“Some of the stories I recalled reading when I was younger, and it was nice to hear them again,” Gregg said.

Phil Robb, the facility’s director of resident engagement, said the reading activity initially consisted of books with blown-up pictures to be passed around. Residents responded with complaints of, “Hey, now; we’re not children.”

The staff switched to reading classics like “Treasure Island” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

“We may not remember all of the details, but when we have the reader reading to us, we can sit and enjoy the memories,” said Mary Johnson, 87.

Robb said reading helps with the residents’ social skills and concentration, and helps take them to a calmer state of mind.

“Often, in memory care, it is easy for them to become a tad bit depressed or disenchanted to where they’ll almost become isolated,” Robb said.

He hopes reading can pull residents out of that negative state of mind.

Each day, during the after-lunch activity sessions, six to 10 residents gather in the lunch room on a small couch and chairs. On Nov. 8, . 8? the group listened to “Treasure Island,” read by facility employee Susan Bollinger.

The group listens to a few chapters each session.

“You would think it would be an issue when we leave off and then come back to pick up,” Robb said. “With just a little bit of prompting, the residents get right back into it. You actually see their faces light up. They are alert. It’s a very simple activity, but it is doing so much for them.”

Though reading and other activities are not open to the public, Robb said he hopes that with the holidays coming up, some residents’ family members will attend and even participate.

Contact Rachel Spacek at rspacek@reviewjournal.com. Follow @RachelSpacek on Twitter.

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