Annette Haines’ talk and Gulliver.
Annette Haines who is the current Director of Training for the Montessori Training Centre of St Louis, US, recently gave a talk on Montessori Principles For All Ages at Sydney’s first conference on Montessori Environments For Dementia.
She revealed and enlightened the audience with some interesting background facts about the similarity of using Montessori approach, which is usually an aid of life for young children in their formative years, adapted and applied to meet the physical, psychological and mental needs of the elderly and those at the end of their lives.
I was personally attracted and intrigued by her comments of the story written by Jonathan Swift in the 17th century, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ship, also fondly known as Gulliver’s Travels.
“In the story, Swift wrote about the ‘struldbrugs’, a race of people who are immortal, they do not die but aged. As soon as they have completed the term of 80 years, they are looked upon as dead in law. Their heirs immediately succeed to their states, only a small pittance is reserved for their support. The poor ones are maintained at the public charge. And after 80 years old, they are incapable of any employment or trust or profit. They cannot purchase lands or take leases. At 90 they lose their teeth and hair, have no distinction of taste but eat and drink whatever they can get. The disease they were subjected to still continue, without diminishing. In talking they forget the appellation of things and the name of persons. They can never amuse themselves with reading because their memory can never carry themselves from the beginning of the sentence until the end (they have very short concentration span). And in defect, they lost the one or any entertainment which they might be capable of.”
It’s amazingly terrifying to imagine and witness how Swift’s depiction of one of Gulliver’s voyages can turn into reality in the 21st century. How depressing must it had been for him to write that part of the voyage! Can we paint a better picture, and write a more beautiful story for the race of the ‘struldbrugs’? Yes, we can!
Annette mentioned the answer is in “using the basic Montessori principles to make a program for elderly people. There are materials and tools that can be adapted to sustain their memory or reasoning skills. There can be a prepared environment build on respect, full of beauty and light fresh flowers, which shall continue to offer the possibility of continuing independence, enabling them to work with their hands. There must exist a physical and psychosocial environment that must try to preserve the individuality and dignity of the ones under care.”
All human beings want to contribute and be independent. Montessori approach support this at all stages of development and put a beautiful end to the circle of this life.
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