Bird Tales

Birds are not just a critical component of a healthy ecosystem; they enrich our lives in so many ways. People of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life can take pleasure in, be inspired by, and experience the joy of watching and learning about birds. Our most vulnerable members of society are no exception.

Bird Tales was created by Randy Griffin, Dementia Care Specialist, as an easy-to-implement therapeutic program that uses multisensory stimulation and the natural outdoor world of birds to help people living with dementia interact with their environment and share a meaningful experience with others. Observing birds through sight, sound, smell, and touch can encourage staff and family interactions even in elders with advanced dementia, and lift their mood for the rest of the day!

Working with four facilities operated by Transcon Corporation, Bent of the River Education Program Manager Ken Elkins has introduced the Audubon At Home Program at these facilities, helping them to improve the quality of life for their residents by incorporating AAH principles in their daily operations. Bird Tales consists of therapeutic programs that encourage participants to connect with birds on a multisensory level—sight, sound, smell, and touch. Ken has also worked with the facility staff to improve the quality of bird habitat at each facility, encouraging sustainable practices such organic lawn care and landscaping with native plant species. As a result, these facilities are the first corporate grounds to be recognized as bird-friendly habitats by Audubon Connecticut!

Ken developed this unique project in 2011 with support from a TogetherGreen Fellowship. Supported by a conservation alliance of Audubon and Toyota, the TogetherGreen Fellowship offers specialized training in conservation planning and execution, the chance to work and share best practices with gifted conservation professionals, and assistance with project outreach and evaluation. To read more about Ken's TogetherGreen Fellowship, select here.

In 2013-2014, a Toyota TogetherGreen Innovation Grant funded the expansion of the Bird Tales program in Connecticut and to five other states. With key partners at the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and Houston Audubon Society, over 100 volunteers and staff were trained on how to use birds and bird observations as a therapeutic activity for people with dementia. Nine new long-term care facilities were able to fully implement Bird Tales, with the installation of bird feeding stations, bird-friendly gardens, and bird related activities conducted for their residents at least twice per month. Strategic partnerships were developed with universities to begin to assess the impacts of the program on people with dementia, and to begin a formal business planning process for continued expansion of the program.

In the Southbury, CT area, Bird Tales has been supported by Pathways for Older Adults Grant from the Connecticut Community Foundation. This funding has expanded the program to six new dementia care facilities, and provided the materials and volunteers to install bird-friendly gardens and bird feeding stations for the residents to enjoy.

Randy Griffin, RN, MS, HNC, and Ken Elkins produced a training video and workbook to help others implement this program at other dementia care and assisted living centers throughout the country. This publication was recognized with a Bronze Award by the 2014 National Mature Media Awards in the Staff/Inservice Training (Education/Training Programs) category in the Healthcare division. For information on how to order your own copy, select here.


How you can help, right now