HPU Hosts Poetry Celebration for Pennybyrn Residents

HIGH POINT, N.C., April 29, 2016 – High Point University students hosted an end-of-the-year celebration on April 28 with the residents of Pennybyrn to reflect on the poems that they have created together this semester.

Throughout the semester, HPU students enrolled in the “Narrative Medicine in Action” course spent time with residents of Pennybyrn, a retirement living community, each weekend creating poems, laughing, and learning from each another. The students and residents read and acted out poems together, used artful images and objects to generate creativity and ended the workshops with the creation of a group poem or story.

“The HPU students give so much creativity to the people that they serve through poetry,” said Ed Shackleford, Pennybyrn resident. “The poems that we have created together are delightful and the energy that they bring is contagious.”

The poems written were on a variety of topics that appealed to the residents including spring, rain, gardens and animals. Each of these sessions gave the residents an opportunity to bring their creativity to the table. The end-of-the-year celebration gave the residents and students an opportunity to eat lunch and read poems with each other.

“I have really enjoyed spending time with these students,” said Pennybyrn resident Sylvia Craven. “We have created poems about gardening and spring, which is something that I loved doing and am not able to do anymore. It brings back a lot of great memories.”

“As time went on throughout the semester I was able to learn, grow and build relationships with the residents of Pennybyrn,” said HPU student Grace Barrett. “It is an amazing experience to just sit down with them writing a poem or doing a puzzle together. You can really tell that they love it and it brightens their spirits. I am sad that the semester is over, but I will definitely be back to visit.”

Multiple scientific studies show that reading and reciting poetry out loud can lower blood pressure, regulate heart and breathing rates and activate regions of the brain associated with introspection and memory. Writing poetry has been shown to increase immune system function, improve mood and decrease pain in individuals suffering from chronic pain.

“This semester my students have really solidified our partnership with Pennybyrn,” said Allison Walker, the professor of the service learning class. “This is our third year of the program, and I can really see the ongoing impact of our work each time I walk into Pennybyrn. I see it in the smiles of anticipation on the residents’ faces and their willingness to share new stories and memories with us. I feel privileged to witness the friendships that blossom between the students and the residents, two groups at opposite ends of the life experience spectrum. The students and residents find common ground through poetry and a shared creative experience.”

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