Poetry for the senses
Nature in verse: creating poetry with people living with dementia
Being outdoors is undoubtedly the most direct (and we would argue most effective) way to connect with nature, providing natural, sensory spaces for social interaction. But there are numerous occasions when it's too wet, too cold or just too difficult to be outside, and we provide alternative creative ways for people with dementia and their carers to access nature through less direct contact.
Poetry is an ideal choice. And the techniques are deliberately simple. One example is our nature poetry game in which we use the throw of the dice to determine the choice of a nature-based word. We have been using this approach in various Memory Cafes in Cornwall. In small groups, people take turns throwing the dice until each group has between 5 - 8 words. Each group is tasked with creating one verse for the whole poem. They create 5 or 6 lines for their verse based around the selected words.
The activity makes poetry accessible and fun, helping participants express their thoughts, feelings and memories without feeling the pressure of creating poetry from scratch. By using sensory rich words such as slimy, soft and spiky the poet can create a rich memory or story of an outdoor experience that really comes alive.
It is these nature-based words stimulating people to recollect their memories of nature that help make the connections; not just between people and outdoor places but between individuals, because nature-themed memories help create shared experiences and/or interests. Memories need not be solely associated with learning about someone's past. They are an introduction to help us better understand the life of an individual in the present and from there it's just a step to a conversation about future hopes and dreams.
We worked with a group from Bude memory cafe who, over 45 mins with lots of laughter produced the following fantastic poem;
St Austell and Truro Memory Cafe members recently joined this list of budding bards and created these fabulous poems:
See how the poems were created:
Dementia uncovered; poetry and film - digital artists interpreted the poems created by a poet working with people with dementia, see the fabulous results
Nature-based dementia-friendly activities - ideas for activities to do at home
Our Creative Activities for Carers blog - find ideas perfect for carers
Creative Spaces homepage - see how we're bringing a sensory nature-based approach to dementia care