Professor Terry Thaxton, Director of the Literary Arts Partnership at the University of Central Florida, began offering “storytelling workshops” at Emeritus, an assisted living facility near UCF, modeling them after TimeSlips, a program started by Anne Basting at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Basting’s work and her book, Forget Memory, have inspired many artists who work with people with memory loss to focus on imagination, not memory. Facilitators bring in a picture, ask open-ended questions, and guide the residents toward telling a story about the picture.
Service-Learning, Literary Arts Partnership at UCF
I began working with my forgetful friends as part of a Service-Learning (SL) option in one of my first creative writing classes at UCF in the Spring 2011 semester. SL proved to be so valuable to me that I decided to continue my service project after I stopped receiving course credit. I continued at Emeritus for two years.
During the first semester, I worked with one of my classmates, Kyle. Once a week we went to Emeritus and worked with a group of residents with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). Another classmate, Tom, also worked at Emeritus, but with the residents in the Assisted Living unit. In the Spring of 2012, Professor Thaxton asked me to mentor Stella who wanted to work with residents with ADRD for her SL project, and then in Fall 2012, I worked with another SL student, Lana.
During my first few months of service-learning, I focused on the emotional, philosophical, scientific, and other aspects of creativity, but I failed to notice the small things that created a sense of place or conveyed the individual preferences and habits that the participants brought to the storytelling workshop.
Creativity: Transcending Memory Loss
My undergraduate thesis, “Creativity: Transcending Memory Loss,” a multimedia work—which included text, images, and video, explored the creative use of non-traditional storytelling to showcase how creativity evolves in people with ADRD. This website accomplishes the same purpose, only now, artists who interpret and illustrate the stories are building a bridge between people with ADRD and anyone who values storytelling as an art form.
Alice Spicer, Director of Alzheimer Chronicles, Inc