The Popularity of “Books with Joan”

March 1, 2019

One of the more popular activities at The Saybrook at Haddam is our “Books with Joan” gatherings.  Residents meet up in the second floor Great Room to get comfortable and listen to Joan Szewczyk, longtime member of the activities team at The Saybrook at Haddam, read from books of their choosing.  The group often takes on a theme such as American presidents, composers or travels, and Joan researches the book to read.  Regardless of the topic, residents treasure this time to share a good book together and to discuss it afterwards.  This makes sense as residents are lifelong readers and wonderful conversationalists.

Joan has been reading aloud to residents for several years. She started “Books with Joan” because of her own love of reading and because she had received input from residents that this would be a welcome activity. In truth, she was a little doubtful that the group would take off and was pleasantly surprised when it became a fast favorite.  She also loves the fact that the group is well attended, the discussions are interesting, and everyone gets involved in picking the next book or series.

“Many seniors are able to enjoy reading in their own apartments, but they love the social aspect of participating in our reading club,” Joan said.  “For residents who are struggling with independent reading, our group allows them to hear some new and interesting books.  The best part is that everyone loves to discuss the books after each meeting and after we complete a book or series.  It really is a lot of fun!”

Joan says she was happy that residents stayed on the topic of American presidents for so long, although she worried the biography genre would become a little tiresome.  But the group kept moving from one president to the next and soon they had tackled nearly all of them.  Currently the group is learning about different composers – including contemporary ones such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney from The Beatles.

“When we finished learning about John Lennon, we had a special treat,” Joan said.  “Our maintenance director, Barry, stopped by with his guitar and gave us a private Beatles concert!  The residents had a blast, sharing stories of when their children first brought The Beatles into their homes.  Some like the older Beatles songs best, but everyone appreciated the impact their music had on the culture.”

Reading is well documented as one of the most important ways we learn and live – and regardless of our age, we enjoy many benefits from reading (or being read to).  In the article “Read Me A Story: Importance of Reading Aloud to Elderly People,” author Oksana Dlaboha encourages anyone to read out loud to anyone who no longer can because of age, vision problems, or other issue.

“Listening to reading aloud is a lively intellectual and emotional process,” she said.  “And thinking during reading aloud rebuilds body-mind-spirit needs and offers other benefits as well.” Those include how good readers feel after reading aloud – as he or she has just given a gift to someone – and how great those listening to the story feel. Dlaboha says both the reader and the listener will surely remember this gift long after the book has been closed.

All residents and guests are welcome to join in “Books with Joan.” Please visit the front desk for a schedule of meeting times.


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