Pickering Creek Audubon Center and Integrace’s Bayleigh Chase in Easton have collaborated to bring a unique project, Bird Tales, to residents at Bayleigh Chase who are living with dementia. Birds are the catalyst in this program designed to brighten days and create camaraderie. Were you to visit during a Bird Tales session, you might find participants holding plush Audubon birds and listening to their songs. Pickering volunteers, guided by Bayleigh Chase staff, would be sharing personal stories of birds and encouraging conversation.
The genesis of this unique partnership began with an inquiry by Louise Montgomery, Director of Recreation and Engagement at Bayleigh Chase Assisted Living, who contacted Pickering Creek Audubon Center to find opportunities for the residents. Samantha Pitts, Volunteer Coordinator and Educator at the Center, suggested the possibility of implementing Bird Tales-- a therapeutic program launched by Ken Elkins of Bent of the River Audubon Center in Connecticut to help persons with dementia interact with their environment and share meaningful experiences with others. Ms. Montgomery and Ms. Pitts began to develop what has proven to be an exciting, cooperative venture for the Bayleigh Chase community that is fulfilling its goal of enhancing the quality of life through experiences with nature and birds.
Bayleigh Chase staff have fully taken on the program since participating in a Bird Tales training workshop along with Pickering Creek staff and volunteers, led by Ken Elkins in February. They’ve been implementing Bird Tales as a part of their regular program of sensory enhancement activities at with both assisted living and long-term care residents. Three Pickering volunteers continue to return on a regular basis: an experience that is rewarding to them as they note participants’ responses. “This is so worthwhile,” commented volunteer Alexis Lloyd, noticing the pleasure that one resident had as she held a toy bird and named it Amigo.
Collaborative efforts between Pickering Creek Audubon Center and Bayleigh Chase now extend beyond the Bird Tales program. With the Center’s help, Bayleigh Chase is making their grounds bird-friendly. There are plans to incorporate more native plants and increase access to wildlife-friendly green spaces, increasing opportunities for residents to see and enjoy birds as well as enjoy the outdoors with their families. Pickering Creek Audubon Center and Bayleigh Chase will be well satisfied with their project when they see children, parents, and grandparents enjoying the natural world together, and observing the birds that are enchanting to all.