In the comments of this post, Kevin, Joel, and I discussed the importance of intergenerational contact in churches. I thought about that when listening to an old Speaking of Faith episode about Alzheimer’s where a psychologist discussed a writing group for people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s to help them pass on their memories. Although it doesn’t come from a Christian perspective, I think that it could be adapted by Christians who wanted to minister to the elderly in their churches and communities. Here are some excerpts, and you can follow the link above for the full audio or transcript:
Dr. Dienstag: Well, I was running this group, this support group, for people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and I got a call from someone who ran the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and who told me that there was someone who wanted to speak with me about a writing group for people with Alzheimer’s disease. And I immediately thought it was a bad idea….
I didn’t see how it could work. I thought that it was going to be stressful for people too dependent on a kind of facility for writing, and I just didn’t think it was a good idea. I think I had blinders on. I think I was really kind of limiting — I was limited in that respect. And when I got on the phone with Don [DeLillo], I asked him what his idea was. And he said, “Writing is a form of memory, and perhaps it would be helpful for these people to have access to that form of memory as well.” And that really struck me, because I never thought about writing that way….
It really is different. And so that just got me thinking about, well, you know, if there are different forms of memory and we’re only using one of them in this way of working with these people, maybe that’s just too limited and maybe we ought to really open up our minds a little bit to this and what the possibilities are that are inherent in this. And in thinking back to that as well, I think it’s really important for those of us in health-related professions to talk to people who are outside the bubble, as it were….
I mean, there we were in the room and they would write and they would finish writing and they would read and then they would — I asked them to give me what they wrote every time we met, and I did that because I knew they’d lose it, or I was afraid they’d lose it. I thought there was certainly a good chance they’d lose it. So there was a kind of a practical anxiety that was behind that technique, if you will. But once that pattern got established, I saw that there was an enactment of something else going on there that was very profound and that was that they were turning their memories over to us and these were people who might come back next week and not remember what they had written. So it’s a very therapeutic activity in that respect as well. And it was comforting to them.