Friends, all summer I have been meaning to write about a special time Brianna and I had together. My Grandma (Brianna’s Great-Grandma) is in Assisted Living. Every time we visit, we make a point of bringing one of our dolls along. My Grandma always enjoys having one of our girls riding on her scooter with her, and it’s a must to take the doll to the dining room where they are a source of many smiles.
Our church recently had a service day and I noticed many members went to the Lutheran Home to sing, play instruments and such. It gave me the idea to take our dolls out to share our passion with women who may not have dolls as a part of their life anymore.
I contacted my Grandma’s Assisted Living center and worked with the Occupational Therapy department to book a time slot. My Grandma was thrilled! We wanted to talk about the historical dolls, but first we needed more historicals! Two neighbors were extremely trusting and gracious to let us borrow their PC Nellie and Samantha dolls. (At that time we didn’t have Caroline and Kit.) Getting all these girls into their historical outfits took some effort! We brought Grace in a hospital gown so we could talk about the AG Doll Hospital.
We wrote a script and kept it pretty basic … just enough to learn about the doll’s time in history and some of the unique challenges each character overcomes. We also talked about Pleasant Rowland and her vision in creating the doll line. Our greater purpose was to provide the sense of touching a doll, seeing a doll, and recalling dolls in the residents’ own lives.
We were slotted against the local Senior Choir… and I am happy to say we held our own in attendance, thank you very much! A half-hour before our presentation we already had a front row forming! My mom came, too, so this was a 4-generation initiative. She helped transport some ladies. We lined up our dolls on a table. Isabelle came along too… we wanted enough dolls to go around. The Precious Moments doll was brought by one of the residents to share at our “doll show.”
I wish I could show you the photos of the smiles on the ladies’ faces! Here is a resident enjoying Samantha’s amazing hair. If you saw the rest of the photo it would warm your heart to see the BIG SMILE! When Brianna talked, I walked a doll around. Then we switched spots. Having a microphone was very important to making this a success.
One of the highlights of the afternoon was giving the attendees time to talk about the dolls in their lives. We heard stories of doll’s heads coming off, dolls whose name would change every time their brother had a new girlfriend, and one woman shared that she had a custom Scandinavian outfit sewn for a Barbie doll. That’s some doll love!
I have since learned that in many countries, dolls are a well-researched therapy aid — especially for memory care patients. Some studies found that Alzheimer’s disease patients were better able to eat in the dining facility if they had their doll to care for at the same time. This effect was noted even in people who never had children. Stuffed animals did not have the same results.
My view is that whether you are 3 or 103, there is a basic human need to care for other beings. During some life stages that is not possible, but a doll is a way to express this instinct. I well remember Brianna lining up stuffed animals at age 2 or 3 and giving them each their bottle. For older adults, days can be long and even TV and reading can be a challenge for failing hearing and vision. A doll is always there as a friend.
We have requests to continue our outreach at other senior facilities, and we hope to give another program before the year ends. My Grandma is already lobbying for us to come back! You know I get as excited about the latest American Girl release as the next doll fan, but I am grateful we have found a way to give a deeper meaning to our acquisitions.