A String of Images

Janet is one of the wonderful women living at Isabella House of Episcopal Homes in St. Paul, an assisted living residence for older adults. Janet has Parkinson's, so her speech is slow and hard to hear, and her movement is also limited.

However, she has a wonderful imagination.

During the past two months, COMPAS Artful Aging™ Poet and Story Writer Rachel Moritz has visited Isabella House once a week to create collaborative poetry with a vibrant group of residents. This includes Janet who is engaged during each poetry-writing session, listening closely and adding her voice to the group’s poems.

Rachel shares, “During the class I taught on the theme of “Hands,” Janet’s imaginative abilities really came through. While the other participants answered with more simple statements like, "My hands have loved to cook," "My hands have held babies," I leaned in close to Janet to hear her say: "My hands have buried themselves in the dark curls of my mother's hair."

Janet went on to describe a crystal clear memory of walking home with her mother in a bitterly cold winter snowstorm. When they got inside, her mother asked Janet to bury her hands in her hair to warm them.

Rachel continues, “The amazing tenderness of this image, perfectly captured by a single line of poetry, is testament to what participants in these classes are carrying inside of them. Janet cannot speak very well because of her illness, but her mind is alive and thriving. I'm thrilled to gather any words that I can in these sessions, but especially moved when what emerges is so crystalline and exemplifies the best of poetic image. Because our lives, as we look back at them, are truly a string of images that stay with us.”

COMPAS’ Artful Aging™ program demonstrates how the arts enable people in assisted living to share their life stories and memories. Through a constellation of ways, theater, poetry, visual arts, music, creative movement, dance and other art forms help older adults remain vital and engaged in their lives and communities. To explore how an Artful Aging™ program can enhance the lives of people you know, please contact Marian at 651-292-3209 or marian@compas.org.

By COMPAS staff member, Marian Santucci