Responsive Environments for the Gifted Aging (continued)


Lines of Faith*

Gifted Eldercare Comes of Age: Part 2

It is my honor to visit a number of older adults in local eldercare facilities each week. Much of what I observe there is an impetus to this blog. One of the ladies I used to visit prior to her passing was introverted, seldom left her room, and always had a book in front of her. One of her family arranged for her to receive boxes of books periodically on loan from the public library. If she finished a box before another replaced it, she would read some of the books again until a new box arrived. “Mary” would always brighten when I asked her about her reading, and she shared that she was hyperlexic, having learned to read on her own as a preschooler – an early trait of giftedness.

Unfortunately, other than in Mary’s room, I observe few books there or in the other eldercare residences that I visit. Print material is limited to a few newspapers and trade magazines.  In the last post, I shared the importance of enriching eldercare environments with technology as a way to respond to the needs of high-functioning elders. In this, the next part of the series, I explore the elements of literacy that will provide our elders with the necessary resources and tools that promote learning and creative productivity.

Literacy Rich Environments

Effective educators acknowledge the importance of literacy rich environments for young learners. Students with ready access to books and other print materials and with writing materials on hand for composition are at a learning advantage. In fact, books in the home is a prime factor in students’ later achievement.  In the same way, our bright, gifted elders, who have spent their lives with books, need settings that include the elements of literacy.

What would eldercare facilities that are that are literacy rich environments look like? We need only look at what reading experts promote for early readers.

  • There would be a library with a variety of genres of books available in standard print and large type, Braille, online, and audio-formatted. These materials would stimulate conceptualization and creativity, along with providing for reading enjoyment.
  • Print would abound throughout eldercare facilities, along with writing centers with computers, paper, and writing utensils where elders can compose and, if they choose, display their work.
  • The facility would offer visits by local authors to give book talks and there would be book groups where elders could read and discuss their reading together.
  • The directors would provide quality creative materials (not just craft materials) across disciplines that promote continued creative productivity.

Our gifted elders need more than a day room with jigsaw puzzles and a television. They need the opportunity to continue to engage their minds in thoughtful activities that can only be accomplished in literacy rich environments.

*Lines of Faith: Kamakshi Sachidanandam/Flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0: (cropped)

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