Bringing the Healing Power of the Natural World to People Living with Dementia
Ken Elkins believes that an appreciation for the plants and animals in a person’s community is the first step in leading them to conservation action. Ken knows his program participants are not always the ones who are ultimately influenced to take action. He has found that cultivating an appreciation for nature in one person can have a cascading effect on a family or even a community.
For Ken’s Toyota Togethergreen Conservation Action Project, he inspired an appreciation for nature at a personal level through a pilot program, “Bird Tales.” Bird Tales is a dynamic, unique, and low cost therapeutic program that brings the natural outdoor world of birds to people living with dementia. Working with four facilities operated by Transcon Corporation, Ken incorporated Audubon at Home environmental principles into the goals of these facilities to improve the quality of life for their residents. The pilot program consisted of therapeutic programs that encouraged participants to connect with birds on a multisensory level – sight, sound, smell, and touch. Ken also worked with the facility staff to improve the quality of bird habitat at each facility, incorporating practices like organic lawn care and landscaping with native species, ultimately becoming the first corporate grounds to be recognized as bird habitats by Audubon Connecticut.
Ken has always embraced the challenges of working with a new or non-traditional audience as an environmental educator. Through his work with dementia patients, he has used the healing power of nature to enrich the lives of others.
Watch a video of Ken's Bird Tales program in action: