From the Dandelions, seeds of happiness do blow

March 23, 1994|By Dolly Merritt | Dolly Merritt,Special to the Sun

Neysa Morrill, 62, puffed a bubble pipe, filling the room at Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia with a flow of soap bubbles -- and a wave of smiles from the half-dozen senior citizens present.

It's a gimmick the group leader often uses to break the ice and trigger pleasant memories from those in the new support group called the SPRING Dandelions, which meets Thursdays at the Florence Bain center.

"Dandelions" is an eight-week group which focuses on laughter, pleasant reminiscing and social interaction for senior citizens.

It is the newest addition to the 12 support groups that operate from the senior center under a program known as SPRING, short for "Senior Peer Resources: Individuals, Networks and Groups."

Free to those who already are members of SPRING, the Dandelion program costs $8 for nonmembers.

At a recent gathering, Mrs. Morrill, the Columbia resident who leads the Dandelions, focused on the topic of humor, distributing copies of her favorite cartoons, which she clips every morning from the newspaper.

"I want you to choose what you think are the funniest cartoons and then tell us why," said Mrs. Morrill, who peppered the meeting with one-liners and puns. With periodic bursts of laughter, group members talked about what they find funny.

Later, the six people who attended the session produced pictures of things that made them smile.

Nancy Sullivan, a 65-year-old Columbia resident, held up a picture of a greeting card she had framed of a little girl with an exaggerated pout.

"I had been recovering from a stroke when a friend sent me this," she said.

"It reminds me not to get on the pity-pot; it's not good mental health."

Columbia resident Felicia Fitzpatrick, 74, showed a needlepoint picture that her late husband had made of a cable car. It reminded her of a trip the couple had made to San Francisco and a story involving a run-away trolley.

A newspaper engagement photo of Helen Rudomanski, 63, taken about 40 years ago, prompted laughter when the Columbia resident, a widow, told how she accidentally had shampooed her hair with deodorant a few weeks prior to her wedding.

Mrs. Morrill knows the value of humor, saying it helped her overcome her shy nature and expand her social interaction during a difficult period in her life. After suffering a stroke in 1990 and the subsequent loss of her husband, she left her Florida home of 37 years to live with one of her two sons in Columbia just over a year ago.

Mrs. Morrill said her sons encouraged her to visit the Florence Bain Senior Center and she became involved with several SPRING support groups. "I had to do something," she said. "I was shy; when my husband died, I didn't have anything to fall back on, and I had to use humor to get me through."

Mrs. Morrill got the idea for the Dandelion group from a magazine that focuses on the benefits of pleasant memories.

Lesley Van Voorhees, a student at the center who works with various senior groups, learned of Mrs. Morrill's interest in reminiscing, and the two women talked about organizing the group.

Mrs. Morrill came up with the name "dandelion" from the childhood memory of blowing the seeds from the fuzzy heads of dandelions and "never knowing where they would land." Using the seeds of humor, she hopes to do the same thing, spreading pleasant memories and fellowship.

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