In 2009, Benita Cooper was keeping up a long-distance phone relationship with her grandmother. As their relationship deepened, and her grandmother shared her stories, Benita was amazed at all that had happened in her life. Her grandmother remarked that nobody else knew her stories because nobody had ever asked.
That inspired Benita to begin the first “Best Day of My Life…So Far” writing and storytelling group. The Levy Center group began as a pilot of the national non-profit organization. The groups provide opportunity for self-expression, sharing life stories and camaraderie.
According to Benita, “Many of the seniors in our writing groups confront debilitating diseases, including Alzheimer’s. We know this because they have written about it, and because it is sometimes obvious in conversation or when they read aloud. This is to be expected in a group of seniors, but the way the group deals with it is unique. They provide a truly free and safe space. It is not a support group. Participants are not trying to give advice. No one is judging, nor expressing sentiments that could be interpreted as ‘feeling sorry’ for another. People just listen, patiently—no jumping in and finishing sentences for another. The sense that there is enough time is a profound gift. This freedom lets everyone follow his or her own musings. And these musings, and the group dynamic, have been a joy for everyone.”
The Levy group meets weekly to chat, write and share their stories with each other. They write without assigned topics, critiques or grades—just expressing their thoughts, whether those thoughts are long-held memories or more recent events.
The group is sponsored by Services for Adults Staying in Their Homes (SASI). Writers have the option of having their stories posted on SASI’s Best Day of My Life website, so they can share them with relatives and friends. If you’re curious about the Levy group’s contributions, please go to bestdaysofarsasi.tumblr.com. The group meets every Wednesday from 10:30 to noon. Anyone 55 years or older is welcome to attend. For more information about the national program, please go to bestdayofmylifesofar.org/mission. For more information about the Levy group and to register, email Nancy Nicholson at nnicholson@SASIathome.org or call (847) 864-7274.
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