Storytelling for Assisted & Independent Living Facilities

By Hollis Taylor

Stories? Stories! Do they really mean anything? One of my favorite past times is to listen to people’s stories. My father was blind and we often listened to recorded stories. Stories bring more than simply entertainment, they also bring understanding. Stories help us understand ourselves, our friends, and even our so called enemies. We can better understand other perspectives by listening to a story and becoming emotionally involved. I noticed when people understand your story they more easily find compassion and understanding for your perspective or position in life. I have also found that listening to other people’s stories helps me understand them. Stories also help us better understand ourselves as humans and what it means to be human beings. Often the characters will make a mistake and have to apologize or will suffer in some other way that many of us can relate to. In respect for stories I have always listened to the stories of my elders and found great wisdom in most of it. I love live storytellers, I find them mesmerizing and way more entertaining than whats on TV. Many of the elderly and other people in long term care facilities would agree. After you watch enough TV it becomes redundant and live performances of any kind are more fulfilling than an entire day of television shows or movies.

As Bright Hawk and I began to collaborate I noticed her talent in telling live stories. She creates an adventure that feels like you have experienced it with her! Some of them are more fiction with the main characters as animals, fairies, and other fictional characters. Some of her stories are from her travels or lifetime experiences. I love stories so to me they are all wonderful. I think this diversity in storytelling makes her a favorite for all types of people from children to elderly folks. She even has a story about a young person in a wheelchair, giving that young person a special role in the community that is unique to that situation. Celebrating diversity is always the foundation and in most cases the wisdom is about love, compassion, kindness, community, or helping each other out. The way she delivers the story is full of enthusiasm and animation. Her delight in storytelling as an art shows through in her excitement and passion about characters. I have heard many of her stories over and over again, each time delighting in how she might tell it this time. The magic that happens each time a story is told is something truly spectacular and I would love to see others enjoy!

I was excited to get her storytelling to children, yes, but also to my elders. I know they loved my stories about my adventures and I loved sharing it with them. When I worked as a nurse I often would bring pictures and stories back about my vacations, often I visited various types of festivals. They loved to hear about community and the creative ways people entertained each other. Often they even had stories to share and I was always eager to hear them. I was honored to offer an option of Storytelling for the elders in Assisted and Independent Living Facilities.

The Hippo Story

A post shared by Bright Hawk (@brighthawk) on

This past winter has been our first trials with Bright Hawk’s stories in these type settings. We have had great results! She recently visited a very respected community in our hometown, Boulder, CO. This place holds safe space for our elders in a progressive home for retired scientists, doctors, and other very educated elders. This community has no Alzheimers unit and mostly consists of independent individuals that are responsible for their own daily activities. They can choose between many types of entertainment and many things to do throughout their day. The fact their willing to give the storyteller a chance says a lot!

At this point we have had great success and found that the residents also prefer a variety of stories. They enjoy the stories about Bright Hawk’s travels and even her stories about Leprechauns. Bright Hawk and I collaborated to create a more modern take Irish folk tale that has now been well delivered to groups of seniors and school aged children. Both groups getting the same story with adjustments for age appropriateness and approach, all audiences were engaged and wished for her to come back to share more stories. You can tell when people have authentically enjoyed the story by their smile and enthusiasm. The younger groups enjoyed the participation, the music, and Bright Hawk’s animation. The elder’s enjoyed her authenticity, the music with the Hang PANArt, and her enthusiasm. I could tell everyone was captured by the art that Bright Hawk seems to hold naturally and combined with her percussion talents on the Hang PANArt we are delighted with something unique, fun, and entertaining.

Now that Let’s Dance has been offering storytelling as another option for facilities we have expanded our visits. This summer we hope to be able to spend a day in the facility. Spending one part of the day possibly in the more independent areas with storytelling, concerts, or exercise classes with the Hang PANArt. Then others parts of the day bringing Let’s Dance Movement Program to alzheimer’s units, groups of people in wheelchairs, and other people in complete nursing care. We are also reaching out to day programs that provide entertainment for autistic children, handicap communities, and other developmentally or cognitively challenged people. We are so excited for our business to be expanding so quickly and to receive so much love and support from so many communities around the country.

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