Adult story hour in Jaffrey is keeping seniors sharp

  • The woman in the polka-dot dress is Eileen Eben and the woman in red is Julie Perrin. Courtesy Photo—

  • Eileen Eben reads to the group. Courtesy Photo

  • The woman in the polka-dot dress is Eileen Eben and the woman in red is Julie Perrin. Courtesy Photo—

  • The woman in the polka-dot dress is Eileen Eben and the woman in red is Julie Perrin. Courtesy Photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/18/2019 9:54:12 AM

“For that moment, it’s like they’ve gone back in time. You wouldn’t even know they had memory issues,” Christine Selmer said.

As the director of the Monadnock Adult Care Center, Selmer works to improve the quality of life for clients that face physical, emotional, or social challenges. Often times, this means finding new and creative ways to assist them in their daily lives.

Last October, a conversation between Selmer and her friend Julie Perrin, Director of the Jaffrey Public Library, led to a breakthrough in client care.

“I started bringing books over so we could start a little library for the clients,” Perrin said. “The idea for a new program just grew from that.”

Many of the patients at the Care Center suffer from dementia or Alzheimers, impairing their memory and creating a new layer of everyday challenges. After researching the topic, Selmer saw the library as the perfect tool to bridge memory gaps.

Now, Perrin and Library Assistant Eileen Eber visit the clients at the Care Center every Wednesday for an adult story-hour and memory cafe. Typically, Eber will read an older poem while Perrin will choose a stories with silly characters.

“It was intimidating at first. We don’t want them to feel like children. We want them to get something out of it,” Perrin said.

Just as they hoped, the poems and stories are tapping into the clients’ memories, triggering conversations and revealing mental connections.

“During one story-time, we read the poem ‘Annabel Lee’ and almost everyone joined in and started reciting it,” Perrin said. “That was a poem that they all used to read in school.”

Since the program began last fall, Selmer has noticed unexpected transformations in many of her clients. Those who used to sit passively are now vibrant and interacting. “They may never know my name, but they’ll know every word to all of these old, famous songs,” she said.

After listening to a French version of The Cat in the Hat, one woman was connected back to her second language and started reading the rest of the book herself. “She could read it so fluently. It was absolutely amazing,” Selmer said. “It gave me chills.”

For Perrin and Eber, story-hour is a perfect reflection of the heart of their mission as librarians. Every time they walk into the Care Center and see the clients light up, they know they’re making a difference.

Their efforts to help the memory care clients go beyond story-hour. In the small, make-shift library at the Care Center, the clients check books out by signing old library cards, the same method they used when they were younger. This way, the library helps them tap into past memories in the same way story-hour does.

Moving forward, Perrin hopes that other libraries see the benefits of reading to memory care clients and adopt similar programs. “It costs us nothing to do this,” she said. “This is why I became a librarian.”

For more information about the Monadnock Adult Care Center, visit www.mfs.org.


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