While working with residents in a care home in Liverpool, I was keen to try a poetry session that involved using sensory objects – which are great for everyone but particularly people with dementia – and also that combined writing with art. So for the writing session which generated the poem below, I incorporated a few different things which were all tied up in a seaside theme.
I took in a few decorative items that I thought would work well – a lighthouse, a boat, a fish and a sailor – as well as a postcard with a seaside photograph. I thought these would be good items to use as they were bright and colourful, different textures and I believed would help to evoke different memories.
For this session, I started by passing the items around and sitting with each resident as they looked at them. I asked them what they thought the items were and where they might see such things. Some of the residents lacked speech or were unable to recognise the items or express this recognition, so I just gave them the items to look at and feel and chatted to them about the items.
After this I asked the residents to think about what things they would see, feel, hear, taste and smell at the seaside. I asked questions such as what the wind would feel like, what the sea would look like and what the weather would be like, and wrote down all their responses in lines, which I arranged as a poem
After this I read out their poem – which they were all really pleased with – and finished the session by giving the residents various art projects or activities to do, depending on their interests. One gentleman took a seaside-themed jigsaw to complete, while another lady opted for colouring in pictures of fish, crabs, ice cream cones and a bucket and spade. Another lady painted seaside pictures, and a couple of residents did seaside themed aquapainting. I then stuck the completed pictures on to the wall next to their poem, for a lovely seaside display.
Here is the completed poem …
You can see seashells and water
and smell fish and chips and a cup of tea.
The fresh air is good
and the smell of the sea –
it’s a lovely smell.
I’d love to be able to swim,
I can only think of the bottom.
I’ve been with my mum and dad
and the little ones before they were big.
We built sandcastles in the sand
and the wind was warm.
The ocean looked nice
it was white.