Sunday, November 3, 2013

Godly Play with Seniors Part 2

Last week I shared with you that I was invited to do a Godly Play church service at a local Senior Center and posted some pictures of the special materials that I was making for it. The actual service was today and went well. I told the Parable of the Good Shepherd. 

Many things about this Godly Play session were different. First of all, the story and subsequent Wondering were in the context of a Lutheran liturgy and took the place of the "sermon". There was no Response Time, because it would be so foreign to the residents and require a lot more staff than the Center has on hand on Sundays. 

Secondly, we had to make quite a few logistical adjustments for the seniors the themselves. I told the story standing behind a table with larger-than-normal figures to compensate for failing eyesight. Next, a microphone was required, since many of the residents are also hard of hearing.  My husband saved the day there, finding a lapel mic for me to use. Otherwise, I would have had to hold a mic in one hand and somehow move the figures as well!

In a setting where everyone has good eyesight, the storyteller pulls each figure from the box and slowly shows it to the circle from left to right.  But although the residents sat in a semi-circle around the table and the parable figures were larger, the ergotherapist, Dörthe (who co-led the service with me), advised me to actually walk around the circle with each figure in order to give everyone a closer look. As you can imagine, this slowed the pace of the Parable down to give it an even more meditative feel. 

This turned out to be just what the residents needed, since several of them are in the later stages of dementia. Dörthe and the nurse on-duty both told me afterwards told me that everyone seemed attentive and fully there with the story. 

During the Wondering, there were few verbal expressions, but I could tell that there was some silent contemplation going on. However, when I asked if anyone had ever been lost before, one woman spoke of friends and relatives that were lost in World War II. Most of the residents were children during WWII and had their childhood stolen from them due to war. And many ended up in Berlin, because they lived in parts of Germany that were given to Poland and the Czech Republic after the war ended. As a result, their generation often finds it difficult to answer quickly. I will be curious to see if they express themselves more verbally after they have experienced Godly Play a few times. 

One of the enlarged figures.

During a feedback round afterwards with the staff, we realized that the table had been to high for everyone to have a good view. We decided that next time, we will either tell the story with me sitting on the floor or leave the table unfolded and stack two layers of tables on top of one another. This would creating a shelf that is lower than the unfolded table, but higher than the floor.

We are planning another Godly Play service for February and will probably tell the Parable of the Great Pearl. Dörthe thinks that this parable could be especially meaningful to the Seniors, since many of them have given up everything and wonder what they have received in return. 

If you have any thoughts or experiences doing Godly Play with Seniors, please share them in the comments! 

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