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Alzheimer’s Poetry Project sparks creativity in those with dementia

Gary Glazner leads resident of the Country Terrace Assisted Living Facility through a couple poems.
Katie Thoresen
Gary Glazner leads resident of the Country Terrace Assisted Living Facility through a couple poems.

Gathered in the common area of Country Terrace Assisted Living in Rhinelander, Poet Gary Glazner leads a group of residents through a rendition of The Arrow and The Song by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The residents repeat after Glazner line by line while making hand gestures that visualize the line of the poem.

They do this with a couple other poems including Edgar Allen Poe’s Raven in honor of Halloween.

The residents even create their own poem about Fall by answering questions posed by Glazner.

This is all part of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project of which Glazner is the founder and executive director. It started when he was studying poetry at Sonoma State University.

“I applied for a grant and got a grant to work at an adult care program. The moment I love to share with people is there was a guy in the group, head down, not participating and I said the Longfellow poem. ‘I shot an arrow into the air’ and his eyes popped open and he said, ‘It fell to earth I know not where.’ And suddenly he was with us and participating. It was just this powerful moment to see how poetry could be of use to elders but specifically with people with dementia,” said Glazner.

Glazner regularly visits elders in the Lac du Flambeau Tribe to create poetry.

Poem by Lac du Flambeau Elders

He hopes to visit more assisted living homes and Alzheimer support groups to offer his services.

“The thing really is to help people. If you’re an elderly person or you’re a caregiver, this is something you can do with your loved one. The goal of it is to serve those people,” said Glazner.

Glazner was brought in by ArtStart and the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Oneida County. You can contact Oneida County ADRC to learn more about the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, (715) 369-6170.

You can also learn more about it on the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project website.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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