Populations are aging: in the United States, much of Europe, and especially Japan, the average age of citizens is creeping ever higher. The Age Bomb as it is sometimes known presents many health challenges. Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other degenerative cognition conditions are a blight for individuals and their loved ones.
As such, new approaches to keeping minds active and working is of the utmost importance. Writing skills are especially vital in preserving cognition. A common Alzheimers test is the drawing of a clock - those with the condition show severe distortions compared with their healthy peers.
This article is not suggesting every care home must move post-haste to train some senior novel writer. But we do recognize the benefits of writing for the elderly and wish to share some insights and techniques that are easily applicable and implementable.
So let’s get started.
The power of recollection
As we age, we know our memories tend to get worse. Like many things, memory can be improved through practice. One of the best ways in which seniors can develop it is to make a habit of writing out memories. This simple practice is a pleasurable way to spend another afternoon.
To make this task, and all subsequent writing ideas in this article easier, ask what sort of writing implements each individual prefers. Some may like a biro, others a pencil, or maybe you have a fountain pen aficionado. Tools are important, and they can offer another piece of interest for seniors to engage with.
Also, consider the paper that will be used. Tastes vary, and some may be fine scribbling on a little scrap. Others could want a notebook or loose sheets that can be stored in a ring binder
folder. Storage is important too, as these memories and other creations are things that relatives and archivists may treasure. The elderly are full of experience and their lived experiences deserve to be protected. Make the sharing process as easy as possible.
Take it upon yourself to understand postage rates both international and national, then get a stack of envelopes of different sizes. Writing is storytelling, and for those without frequently visiting relatives, being able to craft a letter to send could be the only communication means they have. Letter-writing is likely the means of communication the seniors used when they were younger, and that connection back to their youth is vital for maintaining a healthy brain.
Short stories, poetry, sketches. Writing is a creative as well as a practical affair. In addition to conjuring memories, encourage those in your care to keep creating novel pieces. Poetry is a great way to get the creative juices flowing: it can rhyme or it can tell a story. It does not matter what the outcome is, the act of creating spontaneous things and being present is powerful enough as it is; seniors will be enhancing their cognitive abilities by doing so.
Writing poetry can also be easier to share with others for those who may have trouble remembering their past or who have a troubled past. Poetry is highly human and spiritual. Many seniors might find themselves able to put their lives into the kinds of abstract words that define good poetry.
Sharing and caring
As a group of seniors writes together, it is natural they may want to share their work. Reading and writing go hand in hand. Organize a reading evening, where seniors can bring their work to be read aloud and enjoy hearing other stories and poetry too. Performance is entertainment as well as self-care. Make sure to consider individuals’ abilities at reading nights - it may be that some seniors need assistance; i.e. you may need to take on the role of the reader and deliver the poems or short stories yourself.
All in all, writing is a free, efficient, memorable, and potent means of preserving mental functions. There are lots of angles to approach the whole reading and writing process; bring it up with your group and see what they fancy. Remember to cater to individual needs, and, if someone is unable to write, perhaps you can be their scribe for the afternoon.
Writing a letter
Within the past few years, many have argued that letter writing is a dead past-time. While this may be true to some extent for the younger generation, letter writing still remains a valuable exercise that helps to keep seniors actively engaged. What's more, it's a simple activity that doesn't require much strain or effort.
You could ask seniors to choose a pen pal (which could be their family members or even friends in the retirement home). However, try as much as possible not to limit their creativity. The letter should be on any topic of their choice, no matter how mundane it may be.
This simple exercise can set off a chain of positive effects. For starters, it helps to stimulate their short-term memory and makes it easier for them to recall things. It also helps them to brush up on their letter writing skills. This way, they wouldn't need to hire an essay writing service if they ever feel the need to write a letter to their loved ones.
Finally, their loved ones will have a valuable reminder to hold on to even after the seniors may have passed.
Writing a Journal
It's easy for seniors who struggle with degenerating cognitive functions to lose touch with who they are. As such, you could encourage them to start a daily journal detailing their personal experiences, current state of mind, and their life journey.
This exercise can help to keep the wheels of their mind turning, especially if it's practiced continuously. It can also be a very therapeutic writing exercise as it helps them unlock core memories and parts of their personalities that they didn't even know existed anymore.
As people grow older, it's common for their mental health and memory to decline. With seniors facing several degenerative cognitive conditions, it's important to help keep their minds active and sharp.
Fortunately, encouraging them to participate in writing activities can aid their memory and help to keep their minds active.
Amanda Dudley is a lecturer and educator from the United States. Amanda earned her PHD in History from Stanford in 2001, and she currently lectures on the subject. In addition to lecturing, Amanda develops educational techniques for students with learning difficulties and contributes her academic expertise at EssayUSA.