Click here to purchase your copy of ‘Poems of our Lives’

This article originally appeared in OJornal on December 17th, 2015 and can be found here

NEW BEDFORD — A group of Portuguese elders have found in poetry a vehicle to improve their cognitive skills, express their feelings and deal with their fears.

All members of the social group “Embracing Aging” at the Immigrants’ Assistance Center, the seven elders have put into words their joys, dreams, challenges and love for their families and two countries. Their creations were recently published in a book called “Recordando e Vivendo: Versos das Nossas Vidas,” or “Remembering and Living: Poems of Our Lives.”

“I am so proud of this project,” said Maria Pereira, a certified social worker who coordinated the book project and leads the social group’s sessions at the center. “The goal was to stimulate their intellectual capacities and to help them express emotions… to have them come to terms with a lot of their feelings and issues and improve their quality of life.”

Some elders wrote their poems alone. Others sought the help of other group members to find the right word or rhyme.

“The idea was to have fun and to feel good about themselves,” Pereira said. “It’s about letting go, enjoying life and creating memories.”

The book, which sells for $10, was printed with monies provided by the United Health Senior Care Options and Senior Whole Health.

“This is a great concept,” said United Health outreach specialist Belinda Centeio. “Seniors have so much to offer the community. It’s so nice to see that their history, knowledge is being shared.”

The money raised will support the Embracing Aging group, which was established about a year ago as an outlet for elders to get out of their homes and socialize.

“We’re finding that many of our Portuguese elders are feeling depressed, lonely and isolated,” said Helena da Silva Hughes, executive director of the Immigrants’ Assistance Center. “We want them to feel validated. That’s why this project is so dear. This is theirs… we wanted to create a sense of ownership for them.”

The elders got to see the book for the first time at their group’s Christmas party held last Tuesday at the center.

Maria Pereira, 77, said she was very satisfied with the end product even though she cried several times while putting down her feelings into words.

“I get very emotional with what comes out of me,” she said. “Poetry is the best way I have found to express myself.”
Pereira said she has lost count of how many poems she has made over the years.

“My goal is to compile them in notebooks before I die, so I can leave them to my family,” said the native of Pico Island, Azores.

Maria Barbosa, a native of Livramento, Ponta Delgada, Azores, said this was all new to her, but she intends to continue to write poetry about her feelings.

“I was bitten by the poetry bug,” she said. “I enjoyed it very much and I feel very happy.”

The Consul of Portugal in New Bedford has praised the center for taking on this project and for “making aging something worth to embrace.”

“Every word is priceless. Like every hour in their lives has been. Like it will continue to be,” says the consul, who wrote the book’s foreword.

The group meets every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the center, located at 58 Crapo St., New Bedford.

The group offers educational and support services as well as many fun activities such as crafts, games and field trips.

“Everything we offer is culturally appropriate. What I see is people with smiles on their faces enjoying each other’s company,” concluded Hughes.

This article originally appeared in OJornal on December 17th, 2015 and can be found here

Click here to purchase your copy of ‘Poems of our Lives’