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A poetry party for elders with Alzheimer's and dementia sparks memories

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This morning at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, there will be a celebration of poetry created by an unlikely group of poets.

Elders living with dementia and other forms memory loss are expressing themselves creatively with the help of the Alzheimer's Poetry Project of Minnesota. It's a new initiative modeled after a similar program started ten years ago in Sante Fe, N.M. From the Alzheimer's Poetry Project website:

Data indicates that a significant number of people in mid to late stage dementia remember words and lines from poems they learned in childhood. Moreover, the participants show a high level of positive facial expressions, laughter, verbalizing memories, and robust social interactions. Of interest is the use of call and response, where the session leader recites a line from a well-known poem and the group echoes the line. Coupling this performance technique with a simple prompt or opened ended question enables a group poem to be composed, based on the participant's responses.

Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer stopped by an adult day program at an assisted living center in north Minneapolis this week where facilitator Zoe Bird was helping a group of seniors compose a poem. Click on the audio link to hear the conversation.