Benefits of Living Words

Below you will find information about the benefits to providing this program to your group, may it be a writers group, a women’s club, programming event, or a support group.

The list of positive attributes to the Living Words program is:
1) cognitive stimulation
2) reminiscence and reflection upon one’s life
3) release of stress
Let’s look more closely at each one of these benefits for all individuals that may be involved with the Living Words program.

First, cognition refers to any type of “thinking”, such as attention, memory, language, and problem solving. The saying “use it or loose it” has been supported by several research studies. It is necessary to work-out your brain, just as you work-out your body. Like physical exercise, you need to work different parts of your brain by thinking in different ways (e.g. verbal vs. visual), and the workout needs to be challenging. For the individual who completes a crossword puzzle every Sunday, they should challenge themselves to new types of puzzles (e.g. change from words to picture games, such as Mahjong). Activities that are new and different or traveling to new places are great forms of cognitive stimulation since they require new and challenging forms of thinking. Mental workouts are good for everyone, but especially individuals with dementia in hopes that it will help to slow the progressive cognitive decline. The Living Words program also has the attributes of a challenging and varied mental workout. If multiple workshops are held, each week there is a different type of writing that challenges the attendees to think in new ways. There is also the benefit of challenging themselves to find words to match their thoughts. The use of language in the verbal and written form is great mental exercise. We believe the act of pen to paper is also a unique and important component to the program.

Second, reflection and reminiscence are gained in the Living Words program during workshops that ask the attendee to remember a time in their past. The practice of remembering (because once you begin to think about a certain time, often other memories come back too) is more support for the cognitive stimulation benefit, but it also provides a chance to reflect upon stories that one may not have thought about for quite some time. At any time in life, but especially as we grow older, time spent reflecting upon the past is necessary in order to give perspective and organize the themes of one’s life story. We all feel it is necessary to leave a legacy or a mark on the world. The Living Words program not only provides the opportunity for reflection, but to write down these stories so that they can be passed on to loved ones. This can be especially useful for individuals with dementia as their stories may be forgotten in the coming years. Their writing, of their past or not, can be a part of their legacy for their families and friends to cherish. In later years, the stories can also be read back to the individuals with dementia, and can be a fun and stimulating activity.

Finally, unfortunately, stress, sadness and anxiety can accompany the lives of all individuals, and especially for those dealing with dementia and their caregivers. Each person has their own reasons for stress, but the Living Words program may be helpful for all involved. First, there are benefits of socialization and having fun with others in the creative writing workshops. Time spent getting out of a stale routine at home, and instead, talking and writing with others can be fun, which will reduce negative affect symptoms. Second, writing about stressful life events has also been found to reduce depression and anxiety. “Writing therapy” has been used for many populations (college students, eating disorders, individuals with depression), but there are also a few studies that have found it useful for caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. We also believe that it would be useful for individuals with dementia, but to date, no studies that we know of have examined writing therapy for that population yet.

In the future, we will also refer you to specific articles for each of the areas discussed above, but if you have a specific question please let us know so we can direct you to the appropriate article or book. You can email us at anytime at livingwordsprogram@wofford.edu .

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