A passion for birding brings joy in the midst of darkness (and unlocks a powerful memory)

I am a lifelong bird watcher. My mother was passionate about it and got my New York City-raisedfather hooked on it too. They used to take elder hostel trips to sanctuaries to watch bird migrations. Their favorite was a trip to the Audubon sanctuary on Hog Island in Maine with the “rock stars” of the birding world (you can read more about Hog Island here). Here is a picture of them on that trip:

daddy and mommy at hog island

Ken Elkins is passionate about birds too. In fact, he calls himself a competitive birder, participating regularly in competitions. He is so passionate that he wanted to share it with others.

Thus was born  “Bird Tales” a dynamic, unique, and low cost therapeutic program that brings the natural outdoor world of birds to people living with dementia.

teaching

How I wish this had been available for my mother during her tenure at the nursing home, lost in the darkness that is dementia.

lady with chickadee

Audubon posted this video showing Ken presenting his “Bird Tales” program to residents at the Wilton Meadows Rehabilitation and Health Care Center:

The moment I saw those residents handling the toy birds, squeezing them to make them sing, the tears poured forth (in fact, even the memory of that moment is causing some tearing as I write this). It brought back a flood of memories, some bitter with loss, others very sweet in remembrance of the mother who instilled a lasting love of nature in me which in turn, reminds me of what is important, keeping me connected with my God and my world.

another lady with chickadeeThe YouTube site contains the following description:

“With support from the Toyota TogetherGreen program, Audubon employee Ken Elkins developed “Bird Tales” a dynamic, unique, and low cost therapeutic program that brings the natural outdoor world of birds to people living with dementia. Working with dementia care expert Randy L. Griffin and facilities operated by Transcon Corporation, Ken launched Bird Tales to encourage participants to connect with birds on a multisensory level — sight, sound, smell, and touch. Ken works with facility staff to improve the quality of bird habitat at each facility, incorporating practices like organic lawn care, landscaping with native species and setting up bird feeding stations. Ken also developed a training video and workbook to make this program easy to replicate and implement at other dementia care and assisted living centers throughout Audubon’s national network.”

I could see myself doing what Ken Eklins is doing. If you think you could too, check out birdtales.audubon.org.

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