Monday, March 28, 2011

Techie Stuff- iPad for Readers

This Book
Photo by Bob AuBuchon via Flickr

One of my greatest fears in life is coming to the day when I can no longer read. Yes, audio books are wonderful, but for me, a died-in-the-wool bibliophile, there's nothing like holding a book. I'm talking about paper books with all their smells and textures, the weight of it in your hands, the cover design, illustrations, the lay-out.

2007, The Twelve Dancing Princesses
Book Art by Su Blackwell

And the content. Yes, the stories, the histories, the adventures, the heartbreaks, the joys, the surprises, the total escape from whatever it going on around me. And the words. Ah, the words. The power of the images the words alone can build. I once commented to a friend about the beautiful illustrations in a book of hers I had borrowed. She looked at me, perplexed, and said, "There are no illustrations in that book." It is the putting together of the words, the images they conjure, that gives me a thrill up my spine. I can still remember a line from a Louise Erdrich book that described the scene of an older gentleman who had Alzheimer's arriving at a relative's house. As he got out of the car, the story's narrator described how his thoughts and memories went tripping out across the lawn to hide in the grass and under rocks. Is that not a beautiful description? Can you not see it?

I know, I'm such a Geek.

Photo via Memoirs of a Word Nerd
(Yea, sure, that's me. Uh huh.)

All of this is to try to illustrate for you what some of your residents may be feeling. It is the physicality of a book but it is also the content and the process, the "how it makes me feel." Readers are just different like that, compelled to read the way singers are compelled to sing. Whatta ya gonna do? Loosing that pleasure is not insignificant.

So, is it important to read? Yes, without a doubt. Reading has been shown to have several benefits:

Brain Training
A form of cognitive stimulation, a mental work-out. Improves overall brain health in addition to imagination, problem-solving, general knowledge, communication, socialization, and on and on and on …..
Stress Relief
Especially fiction. Stress can lead to countless medical problems, the least of which is increased confusion and agitation as well as impairments in coping skills.
Reduce risk of dementia and memory loss
Reading makes your brain work. It creates increased connectivity between the cells and stimulates the brain. Using the function of the brain, just like using the function of the muscles, increases internal structure and strength.
Development of healthy sleep patterns
Tied closely to relaxation and stress management. The type of literature being read, especially in the evenings, is important- skip the horror genre.
Increased concentration
Improves mental focus, objectivity, and decision-making. The increased ability to focus on tasks facilitates success, which leads to improved sense of satisfaction and confidence.

But imagine if you were passionate about not just reading but also about writing and in your senior years your eyes had betrayed you. You could no longer see to read, or to read what you had written. Enter the Apple iPad.

Via TheNextWeb

Below are a couple videos about ways that some of our seniors are using this little bit of techno-heaven to return to passions they had once given up as lost.

The first two videos feature Virginia, whose family gave her an iPad so that she could read and write poetry again. The first is the video her son originally posted on YouTube (and she's a YouTube star in her 100th year!), the second is a news story.

This next video, from April 2010, takes us along as a group of seniors at Greenspring Retirement Community in northern Virginia are introduced to an iPad. Grant it, these individuals are most likely higher functioning and more familiar with technology than a portion of our residents but I think there is a nice cross-section of previous techie-exposure represented here.

The iPad does offers accessibility features such as :

■White on Black
■Mono Audio
■Speak Auto-text

And it offers independence. Even if considerations like vision and physically being able to holding a book to read were not issues, we all know that space is an issue in our facilities. Not outer space- personal space. Residents are encouraged to bring personal items to make their new home familiar and comfortable but we all know that there is only so much room in the average nursing home. I cannot even imagine being told that I have to get rid of my books. I don't go to the library or borrow books (generally- if I do and I like it I go buy one- I just wanna have it). I love to sit in a room full of books. What it must be like to give up a precious luxury and pleasure like a personal collection. You avid readers understand this. Those of you who don't read will just have to trust us when we describe our romance with books in glowing and tender terms and struggle with the thought of giving up our books. Ask your reader residents.

Image via Home Designing

Two points to make at the end here. First- there are gagillions of apps for the iPad, not just ebooks, and more coming every day. The Apple site says there are 65,000 apps available. The listed categories include business, education, entertainment and games, lifestyle, news, social networking, sports, and travel.

Second- I know they are expensive. If you work at a facility that can- and will- purchase an iPad for your department, I'm coming after your job! Just kidding. But very often families are at a loss as to what to get their loved one for holidays and birthdays. Also, appreciative families sometimes want to make a donation or do something for the facility- and for the Activity Department specifically if you're really lucky. And sometimes, when you go out and ask a business, they will make a donation (be sure to give them great PR). Just sayin' .....

Senior-Technology has a more info about some of the features- should you need to make your case. Web Development and Usability also has some interesting comments from seniors who gave the iPad the once over.

So what does this have to do with creativity? We've seen Viriginia return to writing poetry after she received her iPad. Did you notice the look of pleasure on her face. We watched the delightful woman at Greenspring discover the music app and we saw them all exploring and learning and creating new brain connections as they played around wih the iPad. And there are plenty of apps for drawing and photo editing, music compostion, games, and on and on it goes, so it's not just a one horse show. It's all about the cognitive activity. And it's all about new cognitive activities in terms of developing new pathways of stimulation, functioning and self-expression.

No- sadly, I don't have an iPad and the friend who lent me hers had to all but pry it out of my hands at the end of the day. I would most likely not ever get one just for reading. (Yes, on a long flight but an iPod is so much smaller.) Thank goodness for all those apps.

If you have an iPad, I would love for you to share with us some of the fun features you've discovered , especially those features that can open a new world for our residents. Just click on "Comments" at the end of this post.

Thanks for stopping in today--- have a great one!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

We Love Freebies!

A quick post today to direct you to some freebies! Anyone interested? I know that it's getting pretty easy to find free coloring pages on the Internet that are more adult oriented but how about having them emailed right to you every Friday! It's true!

We're probably almost all of us familiar with Dover Publications. They offer the clip art books on endless subjects, generally with a CD included. Great for crafters!

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They also offer loads of crafting books.

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They also have classic literature, sheet music, math, science, brain games, history books, autobiographies, some really brainiac kinds of publications, drawing books-- you name it, they probably have it.

And they offer coloring books. Endless coloring books on all subject, for all skill levels. It's mind boggling.

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You know about their coloring and project books, as well as their puzzle, maze, and brain teaser books. But did you know about ...

Free Samples


Yup, if you register on their website (there's a tab at the very top of their home page), Dover will email free samples from a wide variety of their selections every Friday. Coloring pages yes, and mazes, puzzles, short stories, all kinds of stuff. Some of it you'll like, some of it you won't be able to use. You are welcome to download and print as many copies as you want. I go through the freebies every Friday morning and save the ones I like to my "Coloring Pages" and "Puzzles" folders so I can print fresh copies any time I need. Remember the days when we copied thing over and over and over again until they were all dirty looking and blurry? Ah, good times, good times.

You really gotta go explore their website- it's incredible. Click on the link here and go browse.  The link for the free samples is here. Some of their items are really inexpensive- check out the Dover Thrift Editions (link is on the left column)- some of those babies are $2.50! OK, yes, their items tend to be, um, obscure, but they're so cool too!

No, I'm not on Dover's payroll. I just know how much Activity Directors love to score free stuff.  So go knock yourself out! And get signed up for the freebies

Here's another site-

Via Patterns for Coloring

Illustrator Carlton Hibbert's Patterns for Coloring is a neat site from the UK that offers blank pages of patterns and illustrations that he and others have created. Sure- you can submit your own (or a resident's) pattern. From the Home Page, click over to the pattern blog and start scrolling down through the library of pages. The images are shown in thumbnail strips- click download to see the entire page.

Via Patterns for Coloring

Some of the patterns are complex, some are easier- which is great for us because we need variety in our jobs, right?

A note about printing- on my computer, when I click "Download and Print" the entire page comes up. However, I only get about a quarter of the page when I actually print. To get the whole image I save it to my computer and then print from there so I can make sure I'm getting the size I want.

Once your residents have finished their masterpiece you can upload their work to Carlton's Flickr group and show off the beautiful creations. Carlton also has a shop where you can purchase calendars,  purse-sized booklets or even a set of 5 posters. These posters are A3 size (about 11.7 x 16.5), printed on cardstock. If you want to make a purchase, you'll notice the prices are in British pounds. As of today, 1 GBP is 1.63 USD. If you add an item to your cart the amount automatically converts to USD in the upper right corner. Don't forget postage. Payment is via PayPal and will automatically convert. You don't have to purchase anything of course- just sayin' how that works.

And I'm not on Carlton's payroll either. Gosh darn it- I've got to get on someone's payroll!!

Get those residents busy coloring and see ya next time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wii Would Like To Watch A Movie

By Baron Colgate via Flickr

Some of us have been around long enough to remember the old controversy over whether or not we could play movies in our facility. The debate revolved around licensing restrictions by the motion picture industry and whether or not a nursing home was considered the actual real home of those who lived there and watched the movies. Weird huh? Well, that debate is long dead and now- who would have guessed- we can pipe movies straight to the TV or computer. In fact, streaming video and online services are becoming so common place that they are out pacing traditional brick and mortar stores such as Blockbuster, which many pundits predict will shutter its doors this year. Sit back and think about how many video stores have closed in your area. Remember when you could rent videos from almost any store for $5.00 a night and that was an awesome deal!! Now you can get one from Red Box for $1.00! Times they are a changing.

via Huffington Post

If your facility is in the market for a large flat screen TV be sure to talk over the Internet connectivity options with the Associate at the store or do some online research of your own for the particular model of TV in which you are interested. Many TV manufacturers have partnerships with specific movie vendors, Internet service providers, or other device manufacturers. In other words, watching movies or TV shows through a gaming device is not the only option. More and more TVs have USB ports and other connectivity options as standard but again, be sure to thoroughly research the type of connection and to whom you are connecting and what it available through that connection. This post will focus on movies from Netflix via the Wii because so many facilities have a Wii. Plus there some other fun things to do with a Wii and while they may not necessarily be creative they do offer new experiences to our residents. That means cognitive stimulation and enrichment. But that topic will be for another day.

via Retro Ways Blog
Please don't think I'm proposing that watching a movie is a creative activity. I'm not a big fan  of TV and am super picky about the movies I watch. HOWEVER--- there are plenty of creative programs that can be developed around watching a movie. We have an Epson Movie Mate that will project HUGE images so we have Drive-In movie night on occasion by shooting the movie onto the big blank wall in my activity room. Oh the reminiscing about drive-in movies!

Let's look at Netflix.

I'm sure many of you have this service at home so this post will be nothing new. The home page for Netflix announces unlimited TV episodes and movies over the Internet. Instantly! Below that is a graphic of devices that you can connect to your account.


There is a link to additional devices that you can use to connect to your account.

You'll notice that some are some Blu-Ray players, some are TVs with connectivity built in, some are mobile devices (can you imagine watching an entire movie on your iPhone- my eyes would fall out of my head!), plus you can use TiVo. But wait- there's more!  The device-ready link in the FAQ section (click here) brings up seven categories of devices that you can use: gaming consoles, streaming players, Blu-Ray players, HDTV, DVRs, mobile devices, and home theater systems. Whew! Click any category and you'll get a boat-load of devices to which Netflix will connect. Check this list out to see if you already have one of these devices.

Junior Mints
By Karen via Flickr

OK- so you have a device and you want to see what the selection looks like. When you click on "Browse Selection" twenty categories are offered:

New Arrivals
Action & Adventure
Anime & Animation
Children & Family
Faith & Spirituality
Gay & Lesbian
Music & Musicals
Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Special Interest
Sports & Fitness

If you click on any category, you will generally be shown 21 titles. Don't throw up your hands, as I initially did, and think that this is it for each category. Remember, you can search by movie title, TV show, actor, or director. So there are many more choices than what you are initially shown.


OK- let's talk money. The basic offer is unlimited instant TV shows and movies for $7.99. Did you see that word- "instant"? That means no DVDs. Many movies are only available on DVDs and some only on Blu-Ray. So if you think you will never want to have a disk sent to you this offer is a pretty good one. The rate plans vary from there. The very cheapest plan is one DVD out at a time and up to 2 hours of instant viewing a month for $4.99. Two hours of instant viewing is one movie a month.

For us, unlimited instant viewing and one DVD out at a time for $9.99/month is best. You can get up to 7 DVDs out at a time for $48.00/month if you think you're going to have movie marathon theme events every month. If you plan to view through a Blu-Ray, there is an additional $2.00/month fee. Keep that in mind when you're deciding how to connect to Netflix.

SO- you have decided to go with the Wii because you already have one. Perfect! BUT- there are some housekeeping things to do first.

Via Film Muets

Set up your Wii for Internet access. First you'll need to get that Wii connected to the Internet. The Wii website has great tutorials and instructions for connecting your console to the Internet. Click here to watch their 'how to" tutorial video. I'm going to be giving you lots of links so I hope I don't make this too confusing. For FAQs on using a wired connection, click here for the Wii support page or here for a video that shows the LAN Adapter. Please don't panic if you feel you are techy-impaired: Wii has excellent support pages with step by step video tutorials that require you to participate as you go through the tute (so you'll feel comfortable when you actually do this) and you can always hash it over with the guy at Radio Shack. Or a 5th grader. Just a note- the secret code will be on your router or you can contact your Internet provider.

Grab the browser. Once you have connected your console to the Internet you will need to download the Opera Browser. Sorry, no Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, or Firefox but Opera works fine.

via Nintendo

To do this, from your main menu on Wii go to the Wii Shop Channel. The image above shows the Internet Channel already downloaded but you have to go in and download before it shows up. The instructions will say you need Wii Points but the Internet Channel is free so no worries.

Once you have downloaded Opera Browser, you can sign up for Netflix. There are two ways to do this. You can go back to Netflix on your computer or you can download Netflix through the Wii Shop Channel. Once that step is complete the Netflix channel will appear on your main menu and you just select Netflix using the remote.

When you start using Netflix, the more you watch the more suggestions you'll get on the main screen. And don't forget you can search for movies.

I know this was a long, hopefully not too confusing post. My apologies if I've left you bewildered. I can't imagine still running out every week to rent videos. This option is way cheaper and much more flexible. You might also find your staff more willing to set up movies for those times when there are no Activity staff working. There are many Wii Channels available and some of those channels can be activities. We'll take a look at that another time as well as some of the features that you may not have explored.

I would love to hear what you're doing with movies and instant viewing in your facilities. Leave a note by clicking "Comments" below.

By Baron Colgate via Flickr

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Now let's go get some popcorn because I swear I can smell some.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Six Word Memoirs. Reminiscence In Nutshell

Photo by jjpacres via Flickr

When a person reaches their senior years, many begin to reflect on the life they have lived. Reminiscence is no small part of our activity programs as we provide opportunities to give voice to our residents. As they say, everyone has a story but all too often we are intimidated by the process and the sheer bulk of our life experiences to put that story into written words.

Old Hands Writing/3
Photo by ECosiCresci via Flickr

Smith Magazine in an online magazine for storytellers of all sorts. The Six Word Memoir project is a participatory project that encourages readers to post their thoughts and memories, in six words, on their website. The project has become so popular it has spawned a book and an entire series of six word projects, each focused on a particular aspect or age of life: love, teenagers, food, and so on. Click here to go the the Six Word Memoir website and read memoirs posted by others. You can even add your residents' or your own.

Sailor Fountain Pen
Photo by Digitalnative via Flickr

The rules are simple:

Six words. Any language. Real words. (See what I did there? Six words...) Keep in mind-- it's not six syllables, it's six words.

Though they are called memoirs there is no need for your residents to feel pressured to summarize their entire life in six words. Unless they want to, of course. Here are some of the memoirs that "my folks" have written:

Close enough to reach. But missed.
              from a fella with a congenitally shortened right arm due thalidomide exposure

I will never believe in coincidences.

Should have read the directions first.

Will eat dessert first next time.
Loved thrice, married twice, widowed once.

Coffee. Cigarettes. Booze. Women. My life.

How many babies did I have?

Down the long hallway of life.

Red Hallway
Photo by .m for matthijs via Flickr

The first time I did this activity, I handed out pieces of card stock and the folks decorated their page and we put up a very nice display. The second time, I simply put up a 5-foot long sheet of paper with "Six Word Memoirs" across the top and the simple rules under that. Then I hung a pencil cup filled with pencils, pens, and colored pencils. Our "scroll" stayed up all summer and every inch was filled with memoirs and little pictures/doodles. Oh gosh, now I'm getting inspired to do that again!!

OR... wouldn't it be nice to have a book of the Six Word Memoirs written by your residents. Oh my, the possibilities here are endless. There are multiple online resources for printing books and most offer a variety of sizes (mini-books to coffee table books), cover, binding, and paper choices, layout options, on and on. Let me list a few possibilities.


A search for "Make a photo book" will bring in endless hits and of course you should check with your local printers. I have used Snapfish and Shutterfly without any trouble but that's been my experience. There is a way to display your book (for sale !!) on websites- Blurb I know for sure because I've seen one of theirs on a blog- but I haven't investigated the details. You could advertise your book on a web page or site, if your facility has one, as a fundraiser. You could have a book of "collected works" by your  residents or maybe a simple book that you put together with desktop publishing software and a stapler at your facility of each participant's memoirs- because once you get going on these, it's easy to keep going. So for example, each page could be a chapter: school days, military service, marriage, work, family, retirement, big events in life. I'm just throwing these ideas out there for you.

Check out his video of Six Word Memoirs, some written by some famous individuals, some plain ol' joes like the rest of us.

(I think I fixed this video link- sorry about that)

If you do this activity with your residents, I would love to post a collection of memoirs here in The Creativity Greenhouse. Contact me via email if you would like to share.

And as always, I love to hear what you're thinking so please click on Comments below and share your thoughts and ideas.

See ya next time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Rainbow Of Your Own

A pot of gold at the end of the rainbow- what a great find that would be. Well, instead of fighting over the gold with a leprechaun, let's just go ahead and make our own pot of gold. And if the gold wraps around some chocolate- even better!

Rainbow photo via Alaska-In-Pictures

This activity is a fun way to introduce (or review) the color spectrum of visible light. The color progression of a rainbow is the same as the color progression around a color wheel.

You may want to begin your session with an enlarged photo of a rainbow, a color wheel, and finally your paints lined up in a rainbow. That moves the discussion from "theory", of sorts, to real life- we've all seen rainbows and there is a rainbow lined up right in front of us. I'm sorry I don't have photos that you can print from this blog today. I'm working on developing printables so that sort of thing is coming. Remember, we just built the Greenhouse.

Discuss a couple of tricks for remembering the order of the colors in a rainbow.


You could even make up a mnemonic about someone or an event in your facility. Fun way to get another aspect a creativity thrown into the day.

Rhonda Ain't In No Backwater Office Now

OK, let's try to start.

4" terra cotta pot and tray (also 4")
Acrylic craft paint- go cheap
Shamrock foam cut outs
Glue Stick
Paint brushes

Don't forget the gold!!
Hmm, there appear to be a couple gold bricks missing...

A note before we start:

  • We have a dishwasher in our Great Room (Activity Room) and have just gotten a load of hand-me-down plates from the cafeteria. As a result, I have switched from using paper plates to using the glass plates as a palette to dispense paint. It works for us and they are re-usable, which I'm really into as a cost saving measure. Paper plates work fine as does a square of wax paper, even med cups that have fallen on the floor and cannot therefore be used to dispense meds. But for this craft you'll want to make sure you have plenty of room to squirt out a puddle of paint since there are so many colors.

  • For a good way to contain all those colors, save up those Styrofoam egg cartons (not the cardboard ones) and squirt your colors in each egg place. These can be washed, with care, and re-used several times. Styrofoam plates can also be re-used several times.

 OK, let's try to get started again.

Each person will need one pot and one tray. I place items to be painted on wax paper. First of all it protects the table and secondly, things like paint and Mod Podge (which we'll see plenty of here in The Greenhouse) won't stick to it like it will to newspaper.

We've eliminated Indigo from our palette for this project. Sorry. We have plenty of color happening already and it's sometimes harder for older folks to make the distinction  between the closer shades of greens and blues. And another stripe of color may be too much to deal with for a good many of our folks.

So that there is time for the paint to dry between colors, if possible have everyone start at the same time and work through one color at a time in the order I have given here. Yes?

1- Paint the inside of the tray violet. Be sure to get the lip around the top but it's OK if some of the paint gets brushed over onto the outer edge.

Encourage your folks to get the paint on very smoothly (right?). Acrylic craft paint dries pretty quickly but glops will dry more slowly and slow the process down.

Set the tray aside.


2-  Turn the pot upside down. It may be helpful to have marked off the pot into sections. We'll paint four colors on the pot but the rim will act as a dividing line so mark the body of the pot into three sections.

3- Paint the bottom of the pot, which is on top right now (I know, could be confusing) green. It is helpful to start by painting the sides so our folks can hold on to the top/bottom to keep it still. Then do the top/bottom, where the hole is. Many folks will worry that because their lines are not straight, they are not doing a good job and are therefore not creative enough. There is no  "not creative enough". Please stress from the very beginning that straight lines are not necessary for this project. I like to say "It's an organic project."
Set the pot aside.

4- Turn the tray upside down and paint it blue. It's OK if paint splops over onto the wax paper. Turning the tray upside down will cover the rim around the inside of the tray and make a fairly nice line. It still won't be perfect and it doesn't need to be.

Set the tray aside.

5- Now add a yellow stripe of color. It's OK for the colors to overlap, in fact that will keep the clay pot from peeking out between the colors.


6 & 7- (I know, that's cheating)- Add orange and then red.

You can skip back and forth if your colors are drying slowly: green then down to red then up to yellow then orange. You can wait to paint the blue on the outside of the tray if you think you'll need more drying time on the pot. Or you can take a little break between colors and share the ballad of Roy G. Biv. Click here to go to the sheet music for The Ballad of Roy G. Biv, written by Greg Crowther. Mr. Crowther is a research scientist in the Department of Medicine at the University of Washington and I have a feeling it would be fun to take a class from him. You or someone could play the ballad if you have a piano or keyboard available (honestly, you really should) or you could just read the lyrics.

So far so good. See how nicely the edges come out. Organic.

8- Using the glue stick, glue your shamrocks to the outside of the pot. If you're really lucky you'll find the foam shapes that have the adhesive backs.

Looks pretty nice.

You can simplify this project by using only three colors- say red, yellow, and blue. Paint the whole tray one color. Then introduce your green with the shamrocks.

Let's talk about paint brushes for a minute. This project is pretty color intensive (love it!) and there is the logistical problem of cleaning the paint brushes between each color. My groups tend to be fairly small so that isn't normally too big of an issue. I partially filled wash basins with water and two or three folks shared to swish out their brushes between colors. Change the water after everyone is finished with the cool colors (the G.BIV part of the rainbow). Or... if you have a larger number of participants get a boat load of foam brushes- smaller sizes work great- and each person gets six or however many paint colors you are using. Place a couple wash basins or other big container with some soap and water on the table and once a color is done, throw the brush in and move on to a clean brush. Then you can have a really fun and colorful time rinsing out all of those foam brushes. Because we all know that disposable foam brushes can be used FOREVER!

The day I did these with my patients I couldn't find the shamrocks so we went with dots using a sponge stencil brush. Some added the glitter glue but everyone made the pots their own. Love the birds. One fella got away before I could get a picture of his very tribal looking pot- he had all sorts of lines and colors and glitter going every which way and it was fabulous!!

If you think that you will be using these pots for plants you'll want to make sure that you have a sealed liner- one that won't leak into the pot- as water will make the paint peel.

Yea, but ...

I know-- your calendar had to be turned in by the 15th of last month. Due to the technical difficulties I was experiencing with Blogger, this project is late. My sincere apologies for that. But that's one craft for next March that you've already gotten lined up.


Easter is coming!!

If you try this project I would love to hear your comments or see your pictures.

Thanks for stopping in today and watch out for those Leprechauns!