Alzheimer’s Poetry Project

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Fact checked by Derick Wilder

 

Chicago poet Gary Glazner founded the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project in 2003 to give people with dementia a way to express themselves. Since then, the organization has worked with more than 62,500 participants.

“The workshops won’t change the progression of the disease, but they give participants moments of joy and happiness not only for themselves, but for their family, friends, and caregivers to connect to them,” Glazner says.

During the hour-long workshops, live music reinforces the poems, and small props stimulate the senses. Participants also create a free-verse poem together, inspired by a theme. When Glazner recites lines from a rhyming poem, participants — even in late stages of the disease — echo the lines back to him.

“Participating in something successful together decreases their sense of isolation and their anxiety and depression. It increases their self-esteem and also gives them an opportunity to express their creativity,” Glazner says.

Twenty-one years in, the project continues to grow. The group won a major grant in September 2023 through Wisconsin’s Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services, via the American Rescue Plan Act, enabling them to bring the workshops to even more people in the state. Visit alzpoetry.com for more.


Above image: Workshop participants of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project
Originally published in the Summer/Fall 2024 print issue