Stories come to life for blind senior

Reading a good story is one of the most marvelous adventures anyone can ever have.

Just ask Jean Walker of Carveth Care Centre.

Sitting in her room at the long-term care home on a cold afternoon in January, the 92-year-old woman talks excitedly about her love of stories and the book club that is bringing them to life. 

“I used to think I would be spending my retirement reading, but it didn’t come to pass,” says Jean who is legally blind in one-eye and partially blind in the other from macular degeneration.

residents gather in a circle around a fire, chatting about their book“Because of my eyesight, I have difficulty reading,” she explains. “This book club is a real treat; something to look forward to.”

Jean, who has lived at the home for the past six months, enjoyed the first meeting at Carveth Care Centre on Jan. 9, 2019. The program is offered every Wednesday morning by Gananoque Public Library.

“Some of us are unable to read, some of us are,” she says about the participants. “She (Pam Hudson) read the story to us today.”

A Program and Outreach Coordinator at the library, Pam smiles when she hears Jean’s reaction to a recent reading of short stories from the Vinyl Cafe. 

“We have been thinking about doing a book club here for two years,” says the 43-year-old mother of two. “We wanted this to be a book club that every resident could participate-in. It was excellent.”

According to Pam, someone will read a chapter or two a week and leave time for a thoughtful discussion.

“Why can’t people still be part of a book club, even if their eyesight starts to go?” she asks kindly. “People still love stories. That doesn’t change. I think this is great because it allows everyone to participate.”

Books are chosen from a range of topics suggested by the group such as home, family, overcoming obstacles and illness.

“The essence of life,” quips Pam, who seems pleased with the club’s first book by Stuart McLean.

“He was such a part of the Canadian culture,” she says with a smile. “Everyone loves his stories about Dave and Morley.”

Employed by the library for the last 12 years, Pam is proud of their other programs such as crotchet and Lego clubs; summer and children’s programs; and, writers’ group.

“This is one that was important to us,” she says about the new book club at Carveth Care Centre.

Speaking on behalf of the home, Activation Director Shannon Buell notes, “It’s always nice to have a new program here and it’s wonderful to hear this kind of positive feedback. From the reaction of our residents, it’s clear it would be great to have more volunteers read aloud to residents who can’t leave their room. Stories are a wonderful way to experience a marvelous adventure, especially for seniors who are visually impaired.”

This story was originally published by Carveth Care Centre and has been reposted with permission.