Nashville Man Draws Value from Old Memories
Doug Oliver doesn't let on that he's a therapist. Doesn't have to.
That's because the subtle kind of therapy he prefers, as a volunteer at the Catholic Charities adult day care program in Nashville, sounds like little more than telling old stories of decades past.
But something more is at work beneath the surface as he works the room a few days each week.
Oliver compliments the ladies on their sweaters, exchanges tall tales with the guys and mingles as about a dozen senior citizens - mostly - read newspapers and comb through word searches.
Then he goes to work, shifting into "reminiscence therapy" to draw out life stories that can help improve memory and build self-esteem.
"You hook into the past," he said. "Then you find something direct or symbolic to the future, and link them together."
To make the link among past, present and future, Oliver uses many tools. Talking one day with a woman, he pulled up an Internet video on his touchscreen tablet that showed the exact factory where she worked decades before. "Her face just locked on it," he said.
When Oliver arrived one recent week, one regular attendee, an old-time fiddle player named Ken Brank, age 87, was lying on the couch.
Oliver got him up with an invitation to play checkers. "You in the mood to beat me?" he said.
Before long, Oliver coaxed him to pull the worn fiddle out of its case. Oliver pretended to pluck it first, then handed it over to the old pro.
A few songs in, Oliver turned to a few questions about the man's daughter - a touring fiddle player - and her earliest fiddle lessons, given from father to daughter years before.
"She's real thankful for you," Oliver told him.
"She can beat me at fiddlin' now," Brank replied.
With the memory come to life, Oliver put on the finishing touch.
"You've left her," he said, "a great gift."