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Springmoor’s Life Writing Workshop Allows Residents to Share Stories, Remember Important Life Events, and Create a Lasting Legacy

Springmoor offers residents a wide range of intellectual events and activities, such as lectures, book clubs, and discussion groups. Staying engaged in the community has helped residents deal with the stress of the coronavirus pandemic. To keep everyone safe, we follow recommended safety procedures such as wearing masks and socially distancing.  

One popular activity at our senior living community is the Life Writing Workshop conducted by Dr. James (Jim) W. Clark, an NC State University Professor of English Emeritus. Dr. Clark joined the faculty in English at NCSU in 1967 and worked there for almost 40 years.

The Springmoor program in life writing has its roots in OLLI (formerly known as Encore), a learning program for those aged 50 and above. Dr. Clark has taught in this program every year since its inception in the early ‘90s. He was delighted to bring the writing workshops to Springmoor more than 20 years ago.

The workshops are offered once a month, at no charge to Springmoor residents. Since he volunteers his expertise, each time Dr. Clark conducts a workshop Springmoor contributes $100 to the Springmoor Endowment Fund.

Dr. Clark’s Workshop Helps Keep Residents Engaged and Connected 

Virtual and socially-distanced activities give residents the ability to choose how to stay connected. The Life Writing Workshops are kept small and typically have fewer than a dozen participants. During each two-hour session, every writer has the opportunity to read aloud a selection of their choice, which the group then discusses. 

The group currently meets face-to-face but will switch to Zoom sessions if the need arises. Dr. Clark attests that, throughout the long history of the workshop, participants often share with him how much they benefit from the opportunity to connect with others and express themselves through their writing.

Life Writing Workshops Give Participants an Emotional Outlet

Dr. Clark shared his thoughts on the cathartic aspects of life writing: 

“Workshop writers find that an energizing creativity is released through the process of writing down their past experiences. Many older adults never thought of themselves as writers, or imagined that their lives are worth writing about. 

”Participants make deep emotional connections with others in the group. They enjoy sharing their stories with others, and become closer as a result.

“People who are inclined to write find others with similar interests. What one person writes about will inspire another person. It feeds off itself. 

 “If someone has written something that they find too emotional to voice themselves, they sometimes ask another member of the group to read it for them. It’s a marvelous thing.”

Memory Is Strengthened through the Process of Writing

Dr. Clark guides participants regarding how to start with a vivid memory and fill in the gaps as they go along. “One of the most gratifying aspects of the experience is that people find that their memory is much better than they expected,” he says.

Recounting cherished memories helps to solidify the past. Many people find that once the flood gates are opened, long-forgotten experiences come rushing to the forefront. Writers become more confident in their ability to access memory and are encouraged to continue making new memories.

Writers find life more meaningful by enriching the lives of their intended audience. They also guide the way for other older adults who may doubt their capacity to remember the past or to recreate it.

Writing Your Life Story Allows Cherished Memories To Be Preserved and Shared with Loved Ones

Many participants in the workshop want their lives to be preserved in their own words for their families. In a few instances, newlyweds had met and married at Springmoor, and they wanted to share details of their past with their new spouse.

“People enjoy the freedom to tell their story their own way,” says Dr. Clark. “Part of the enjoyment is sharing their stories with others. Writing for the benefit of loved ones is life-affirming.”

Knowing your audience helps any life writer focus. An 80-year-old woman may be writing for her 13-year-old granddaughter, or a 90-year-old uncle might have his adult nephew in mind. Participants in the group often find they’re enlivened by focusing on their audience and that this guides the syntax and revelational characteristics of their writing.

Continuing Care Is Enhanced by Knowing a Resident’s Life History 

Dr. Clark publishes the group’s writing at his own expense. He asks participants what content they’d like included and has copies printed and bound. These works are then preserved in the library at Springmoor and may be checked out. Dr. Clark also gives a copy to each writer who contributed his or her work.

The identity of Springmoor residents who begin to have memory problems is thereby preserved through their writing. “Information about who this person really is can be found in the library,” Dr. Clark says. “This can help the staff providing long-term care. If the individual has been active in this group, caregivers will know them as they would like to have been known.”

Springmoor is dedicated to enhancing the lives of its residents in every aspect. Intellectual activities and events are one way to connect with others and continue learning new skills as we age. To learn more about our Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), and activities such as the Life Writing Workshop, simply click here or call us today at 919-848-7080.

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