Saturday, January 26, 2013

Flower Arranging in an Adult Day Program - Exercises in Decision Making

Flower arranging (click flower arranging to see the work being done in one of my old classrooms) was one of my favorite lessons to present when I was a teacher.  I loved the coupling of flowers and mathematics. Watching a 4 year old hold a stem of flowers up to a vase and estimating just how much they should cut off so that it would fit the height of the vase silenced me as I viewed their deep concentration.

Every few weeks, the local florist donates a large, plastic tub of flowers to the Bridge. It is such a wonderful gift. In the fall, they brought in dozens of miniature sunflowers.  Yellow-mooned blossoms brought a glow to the place.

The last donation was a mixture of roses and carnations. There were dozens of each. One of the seniors enjoys breaking the large quantity of flowers down into smaller groups from which she makes floral arrangements. She makes many decisions as she goes along regarding color and height combinations, as well as how many to put in one vase or another. This senior does have dementia. She may or may not remember she did the work an hour afterwards, but the evidence of her work remains for days.

Her first independent decision was to sort the flowers by color. She slowly pulled them out of the various vases and then piled them on the table into color groups. 

Then she took five or six of one color of carnations and placed those into a vase. Next, she selected a handful of flowers of a different color. She then stood back and took a moment to decide on what to add and where.

In the foreground of the photo below you can see one of her first completed arrangements. But wait, just when I thought she was done with that arrangement, she picked a white rose from another vase and....

...inserted it into the bundle of pink and purple carnations as an accent point. She leaned back for a moment and smiled at her work.

She worked for more than an hour creating one arrangement after another.

Decision making: She divided, that's right; she used mathematical skills, the flowers into groups and then she created enough arrangements for each of the dining tables. Writing this now, I have this new thought on flower arranging, and I have written a lot about the subject over the years.  There are overlapping elements between flower arranging and spooning - they are both activities/work in which quantities are distributed.

Then she placed one vase on each table - again, distribution of quantity.

She returned to her work table and I watched as she began working silently on one last arrangement of flowers.

When it was finished, she cleaned up her table/work area, returned to her usual seat and began looking at one of her magazines. I left the floor, turned the corner and there it was. A lovely gift placed on my desk next to my computer. She had placed the vase of flowers there for me.

 Her quiet work reminded me of a quote by 
Anne Morrow Lindbergh:

Arranging a bowl of flowers
in the morning can give a sense
of quiet in a crowded day - 
like writing a poem 
or saying a prayer


Never underestimate the creative intelligence of an individual with dementia.

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