The power of poetry is yielding results for people living with dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Poetry Project uses poetry to inspire creative self-expression, reduce social isolation and provide social and intellectual stimulation for people living with dementia.
The project’s founder/executive director, Gary Glazner, was among the presenters on November 14 at the International Arts and Health Conference at Sails Port Macquarie by Rydges.
Poetry sessions have been staged in 32 US states as well as internationally, the conference heard.
The project has reached seven countries drawing on languages from English to German, Hmong, Polish, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish.
Mr Glazner said the poetry techniques had been successful in all of these different languages and cultures.
“Coupling the strength-based performance technique of call and response and echoic memory gives us the tool to engage people, all types of people, but certainly people living with memory loss, in this participatory performance of poetry,” Mr Glazner said.
Call and response can be found in cheerleading, music and almost all religious ceremonies, while echoic memory is the ability to recapture the exact impression of a sound shortly after the sound is finished.
“When we ask a person living with memory loss to repeat back or echo a line of poetry, we are not asking them to do the perhaps difficult task of accessing their long or short term memory, but we are accessing the phonological loop that is responsible for dealing with auditory and verbal information,” he said.
Mr Glazner said they created performances or chants of the poems by repeating the lines multiple times to build up energy and group participation and one benefit of this repetition was they were seeing the creation of new memories.
The International Arts and Health Conference attracted 180 delegates.
The November 12 to 15 conference’s overarching theme is mental health and resilience through the arts.
Dr Annemaree Wilson from Cranaplus Bush Support Services said the speakers had been inspiring.
“My brain is so full and I just feel so stimulated,” she said.
Former NSW Governor and Australian Centre for Arts and Health patron Professor Marie Bashir supported the conference.
Professor Bashir said that, as a psychiatrist, she had witnessed the arts, in all their forms, enhancing many aspects of our health.
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