I’m sure that a number of our readers will visit older people in nursing homes at some stage whether pastorally or socially. In many instances you will find your way to a Day Room where a number of the residents will be seated in a circle around the room, not speaking or being interacted with, either dozing or looking into space.
Perhaps the TV is on – often loudly because of hearing problems – but nobody taking an interest because in many cases it’s a soap opera or a programme of the X Factor type. Morale and wellbeing in this group of people is likely to be at a low point on the scale.
Now picture a group of the same people, no more than eight in number, being brought to a quiet room for a Serenity Spirituality Session lasting about 45 minutes. They get the full attention of the person leading the group who greets each one individually while quiet music is playing in the background. After that the session starts with the pealing of Church bells on an accompanying CD. This is followed by a hymn which is suitable for any Christian denomination and the participants have the words if they want to join in. This is followed by short prayers, scripture readings with time for reflection, a time spent with the beauty of nature and it’s Creator, intercessory prayers for each other and finishes with another peal of church bells to signal the end of the session.
The Serenity Spirituality Sessions have been devised as a follow-up to the Ciunas CDs and DVD which are based on the Roman Catholic tradition whereas Serenity is suitable for any Christian tradition so as to include more residents in any particular nursing home.
It also makes them more adaptable for use outside of Ireland.
These sessions have been carried out for the past year and thanks to the financial help of the Religious Sisters of Charity we were able to have a small research project carried out. This was a pilot study over a period of seven months, involving six nursing homes, four of which were already using Serenity while the other two were new to the programme. Information was collected from the facilitators; the residents themselves were not interviewed but the facilitators gave feedback of the responses and reactions of the older people to the sessions. They quoted some of the group as saying “That was just beautiful” “That was lovely” “When can we do it again?” “Can we do it every evening?” The group leaders/facilitators reported “They feel very calm and it’s very soothing. It was just excellent. They loved it. They would love to continue doing it every week”. “It gives comfort, it gives hope and meaning”. “They have a sense of shared belonging”.
I would encourage any reader involved in nursing home ministry to go to the Sonas website and see if they would be interested in investing in the box set of seven items which include three CDs of prepared sessions, a booklet, a CD Rom for the words and a How-to DVD. At a cost of €80.