It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m already planning something new, interesting and fun for when I meet with my friends in the Memory Matters Compass Program on Tuesday. Similarly for Thursday when I volunteer in the Connections Class. Long ago my good friend and fellow volunteer Bob Engle taught me to regularly bring something new to Memory Matters. He challenged me to use my own brain to learn something entirely new each and every week. Often he will send me a message with a theme to contribute to, and/or ask me to learn a new song by an artist whose birthday it is (or was) on the upcoming Tuesday.
There have been a few classic challenges such as last week when I tried a Mamas and Papas song. Playing guitar and singing “California Dreaming” as a soloist without their illustrious four part harmony was certainly a challenge, as was “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to mark the recent total eclipse of the sun.
Bob and I, and our other volunteers, attempt many different interactive topics including stories about famous people, poems, rhymes, limericks, funny stories or real news items that can help stimulate the mind and allow our friends to be engaged. The results are nearly always rewarding and we are stretching our brains too. We always emphasize opening the mind and encourage learning something new every week!
Coincidentally I read an interesting article earlier today by Maria Shriver, herself an “architect of change”, a thinker and a huge supporter of the Alzheimer’s movement, both for seeking a cure and supporting care-givers everywhere. I include an extract of her writing, not as a political statement, but more as a reality check for the world we live in and especially the world of Memory Matters for which I am a passionate supporter and worker.
“Understanding the mind—our own and that of others—will lead us to all be better to those with mental health challenges. It will also lead us to be better and kinder to ourselves. Open minds and open hearts are what our world needs more of now. We need healthy, curious minds if we are to solve our most pressing problems: Alzheimer’s, climate change, health care, nuclear proliferation and more.
We need new ways of thinking. New ways of approaching challenges. Every day that the news gives us something to think about, the world also gives us something to do to help our fellow human beings”.
We spend so much time opening the minds of those attending our Memory Matters classes using the power of verbal communication and engagement, so it was a surprise to me that we had not before studied “non-verbal” communication. Last Thursday in the Connections Class we studied all forms of facial expression. In other words we tried to find out how many different emotional expressions were known to the Class.
Try it yourself. Smile, frown, anger, pout, frustration, thoughtful and so on. These are some examples. Under Program Director Maureen’s guidance our Connections Class came up with 62 different emotional facial expressions. Can you beat that?! Please let me know! Our Connections Class members never fail to surprise me with their engagement and competitive attitude.
Later the Class wrote short essays about an imagined conversation between a dog and a cat. Simple I know, but there is a joy in sharing the fun results with friends.
So now I am ready to learn a John Denver song made famous by Olivia Newton John. It’s her birthday on Tuesday. The song title is called “Follow me”.
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