As a first-year medical student at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, Anna Delamerced regularly visited with residents of a local assisted living facility. Delamerced greatly enjoyed her visits, but, conscious of the health risks associated with loneliness and social isolation, particularly for seniors, she found the facility lacking in activities that fostered community and helped build relationships among residents. Delamerced, who enjoys reflective writing, thought a storytelling program would be the perfect vehicle to help residents bond.
“They are older and wiser, with rich histories of life experiences and stories,” she said.
As a Boston Schweitzer Fellow, Delamerced has launched a storytelling/creative writing program for residents of Ethan Place, an assisted living facility in Warwick, RI. She facilitates weekly sessions in which participants do mindfulness exercises, writing prompts, journaling, photography, and share their life experiences and personal stories. In doing so, Delamerced’s aim is to create community, cultivate relationships and an open environment, and encourage self-expression and creativity, with the goal of addressing the psychosocial components of health.
Delamerced says she has been humbled and inspired by the level of engagement she’s seen among the participants in her group.
“Each of them willingly shares their life stories and experiences, challenges and lessons learned, joys and triumphs and everything in between,” she says. “We’ve become a storytelling community built on friendship.”
One participant’s love of poetry, for example, inspired the group to do prompts and exercises on poetry.
Even better, the woman told Delamerced the program has re-sparked her dormant creativity. She has shared some of her stories and life experiences through verses, poems, and songs in the group.
Delamerced is hopeful that bonds she has helped forge within her group will ensure it is sustained for the foreseeable future.
“The participants have expressed that they would love to continue meeting up monthly as a community,” she said.
And just as she has helped foster friendships among the residents of Ethan Place, Delamerced credited the Schweitzer Fellowship with helping to cultivate friendships of her own.
“Being part of a community of fellows has been wonderful,” she said. “We are able to support one another, not just for this year but for life. My cohort of Fellows have not only become my colleagues, but my friends, too.