Monday, October 6, 2014

The Montessori Bell Game With The Elderly

This is a re-post of one of my favorite experiences using Montessori materials with the elderly.

Before I introduced the Montessori bell game to the elderly at The Bridge, I thought long and hard about it. I watched how each of the seniors moved from one place to another. Too, I considered the therapeutic use of it. How would a control of movement activity serve a senior population? The term "purposeful movement" returned to my thoughts over and over again. This is exactly what needs to be exercised and sustained in the elderly - control of and purposeful movement. I found a bell that I thought would be perfect for the introductory game when I was going through my Christmas ornaments. The bell was shaped like an Irish cottage with clovers painted on its sides. Beautiful, of a light weight and it had a loop of ribbon on it for holding. It was ideal!

I waited till afternoon snack was over and our population was much smaller. Too, none of the seniors present used walkers.  I went and got the bell from my bag and then invited the seniors to join me for a new activity that used something old. The old was the bell. Before long everyone was seated, including my boss (the man in the plaid shirt above). 

I carefully revealed the Irish cottage bell. I explained that one person would be given the bell and that they would then walk across the room and give it to someone sitting opposite of them. I also said that they were to do it without letting the bell ring. I added that if the bell rang, even if it was when they were handing it to the other person, they would have to return to their seat with the bell and try again.

I was the first to go. I exaggerated my careful movements. I handed it to one of the seniors and returned to my seat. She looked at the bell with all seriousness and said, "I like this bell. I think it would look great on my Christmas tree. I think you should give it to me." She then started laughing, as did the others, and said she was just kidding, but that she did like the bell.

She rose to her feet and hunched over slightly as she held the bell from its ribbon in one of her hands. She moved slowly and with purposeful movement. She took a few more steps and then reached the hand holding the bell out to the one she had chosen to pass it on to. His arm reached out from his seat and the bell was silently transferred to his hand.

It was so deeply moving when their hands briefly touched and their faces lit up with the joy of giving and receiving.

After each person had a turn, we continued for a second, a third and a fourth round. Here the woman in the above photos takes her second turn. She is walking towards a woman sitting a little further from her than the person she chose the first time.

Later, she took a third turn and chose someone even further away.  Her face shows her absolute concentration on the bell and moving without causing it to ring. 

There was something both lighthearted and deeply spiritual when one participant reached out to the other and acknowledged the gift of the bell.

All participated and yes, the bell did ring a few times. These were moments of exquisite joy! Just when you thought that the bell was going to be given without ringing, it rang. And when it did, it startled everyone and all broke out laughing. The bell carrier returned to their seat and tried again a second time. One of the seniors, in a moment of absolute hilarity for all, spanked the bell after it rang and told it to behave. She did so with a generous smile. She then rose and walked the bell across the room, again, without it ringing. She returned to her seat with a look of victory spread across her face.

Another senior carries the bell:

It became like a dance. All of the seniors moved gracefully across the floor. There were moments of absolute silence and there were movements filled with laughter.

There was a trust between the giver and the receiver that bore witness to a deep fellowship.

The bell will be passed again.


Teresa said...

You write beautifully, and what a great shared experience for the seniors!

kathy huston said...

This is so nice. Thank you for sharing.

Lindart said...

Absolutely love this story! Thank you!

adu said...

I look forward to your posts - and this one was well worth the wait! Thank you for sharing these precious moments with all of us - it sure makes the world feel a much kinder,supportive, sensitive and peaceful place.