Improv, Dementia & I

I am not an Art or drama therapist, I am merely a human being who wants to help others while offering my skills, experience and knowledge.
When I started at the Millman resource center I knew little about dementia apart of that it has to do with memory loss.
But I was determent to ‘Yes, And…’ and to take this great opportunity – providing Improvised Comedy classes to the more mature people, some with dementia.
When you read ‘Improv & its benefits’ on my website, you will find out the so many different ways on how Improvised comedy has enhanced my daily life.
One of the main benefits of Improv is to be in the present moment, while you fully allowed reacting spontaneous and therefore you don’t require a ‘memory’ as such.
Instead of thinking on something in particular, the participant responds through association.
An example would be the game called ‘Word Ball’- All players are sited in a circle. One player starts by throwing a word to another player. The receiver associates on this word, and throws his association to yet another player. The ball is passed around while saying different words – associated to the previous word- the best salads, meals and dishes have been created through this game.
You can then add a notch to the game, by starting each word with the next letter of the alphabet – this then can lead to sentences starting with letter of the alphabet, which then can create a cohering story …
Warm up games help the person to let go of the day. They are silly, energetic, spontaneous & encouraging you to make mistakes. These games loosen up your mind, make you laugh and therefore raise the positive vibration.
For ongoing exercises ‘Yes, and…’, ‘Because ‘ or maybe ‘Headlines’ can be to used in order to animate to create an ongoing linked-up story- the story flows through listening, imagination and association rather than over thinking the next step.
Games & exercises used in improvised comedy can reawaken the capacity of creative thinking in people with dementia.
Being in the present moment reinforces a natural, spontaneous respond through association & imagination. And there are no limits on very adventurous, creative and imaginative stories.
For the last six months on a weekly basis I have been going to the Millman Resource center to ‘play’ with the people visiting the center.
Admittedly, at the very first session, everyone was a bit surprised even confused as they were making weird sounds, movements and were freely able to shout out, while laughing a lot.
But curiosity overtook and soon everyone was on board to create a story, to make even louder sounds, to point to things and call them something else, to improvise songs and lastly to play ‘Bunny Bunny’ or ‘Whoosh’.
Now, every week, I come into the center; all participants are awaiting me eagerly to do some games & exercises.
As mentioned before, I am not a professional therapist, BUT I can tell you about my personal observations.
Firstly, I need to point out the great team interaction. I have people with dementia, people with bad hearings as well as just elderly people in this group. Sometimes, it takes the person with dementia a bit longer to come up with a word/ sentence, BUT everyone in the team are supportive, helpful and we all give that particular person enough time to contribute – to my greatest surprise, they ALWAYS come up with some extraordinary, creative and thoughtful comment.
The quality of these genius expressed words/ sentences just amazes me.
Another valid point is that through repeating the games/ exercises on a regular basis, the participants are now responding quicker and we have a generous flow going on with little/ hardly any interruptions.
Furthermore, it makes everyone laugh and after each session you can feel that the participants are happier and also very proud of themselves, as they observing their improvements themselves.

in 2015, I also hosted one hour sessions at Age UK Camden, Dementia café Islington and at the Chestnut Art & Community center, Tottenham.
My main observation was that all participants had a good time with laughing, feeling free to express themselves as well as they all were eager to help each other.
But I am also aware, that my approach of offering Improvised comedy games/ exercises are new and unknown to the wider community, and it might be difficult for people to see the benefits of creative interaction which makes people laugh from just an hour session.
That’s why I have decided to offer two taster session for the price of one.
In that way, the new group, I and the center can get to know each other and my approach during the first session, whereby the second session will add some more details while repeating certain games from the first session.
By then, everyone participating will understand the concept of playful learning, reawakening as well as reinforcing the imagination through association.
If you require more information, or you are interested in offering my service to your center, please feel free to contact me any time.

More detailed information about Improv & Dementia can be found here.

Thank you

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