Imagine the moment you or any of your family members is diagnosed with dementia/ Alzheimer. Imagine then, there was an effective and fun service available which helps you or your parents to remember with ease, comfort and laughter…
My personal ‘discovery’ of the fun world of the performing arts of Clowning and Improvised theatre, in 2012, was positively life changing. At the beginning it gave me a huge confidence boost, but then it was the delightful way of being and staying present. Without firstly realising, practicing and performing clowning and improvised theatre can be such an easy way of harvesting ‘the Power of Now’.
The Clowning and Improvised theatre practices encourage you to overcome your social ‘barriers’ and makes you feel free in your movements.
The main concepts are to be spontaneous, present, and open to laugh about your ‘failures’. You are encouraged to make mistakes and fully embrace/ celebrate ‘failure’.
I am now using these concepts in my daily routine. The more I am in the present moment the less worries I have. It appears as if the puzzle is putting itself together – piece by piece.
Clowning and Improvisational theatre are mainly group performances, hence reinforcing team spirit and social interaction.
Main interactive features are the group games and exercises inciting everyone to freely express them while creating scenes, objects or characters together.
Expressing your silliness can be very liberating as you are overcoming your fears of embarrassment. Personally, I believe that these games are the most effective, entertaining and funniest way to conquer you ‘social’ fears.
These games are open minded, non judgmental and team orientated.
The techniques used are raising the team spirit by working in a group and encourages you to make your partner ‘look good’. Clowning and Improvisational theatre can help to quiet the ego and therefore, focus on the present moment, on what is right there and then.
The fundamental core of Improvised theatre is ‘Yes, and…’
‘Yes, and…’ eliminates the negative blockages which are holding us back in life.
How many times in our life we just simple exclaim ‘No’, without considering where ‘Yes’ would have taken us.
‘Yes’, opens new doors, while ‘…and’ invites you to be curios, to explore & discover new opportunities/ possibilities.
‘Yes, and…’ opens up infinite possibilities to create, discover and experience.
In my experience, the games, exercises and activities used in clowning and improvised theatre can be a significant cognitive and mental support for people with mild to moderate dementia / Alzheimer as well as for their carer.
For more than a year now, I have been hosting interactive sessions with people with mild to moderate dementia. It is a very successful approach as it supports/ encourages the participant to engage with his creative thinking through spontaneous interaction in a group.
I encourage the participants to embrace ‘failure’, to make things up on the spot while reinforcing the creative thinking abilities, but most importantly to have a laugh.
The laughter about their ‘failure’ makes everyone feel young again, as well as it helps the individual to let go from their worries, which then results to a faster, more spontaneous and very creative respond. Every group has different needs and I quickly adjust the games/ exercises accordant as we go along, without interfering in the established rhythm.
There is no need of intentionally being funny as the humour will arise naturally. Most games can be easily adapted to fit different abilities and physical limitations.
The activities encourage using imagination, rather than your mind. It is all about being present and spontaneous.
There are no rules, so there is no such a thing as ‘failing’. As there is no ‘failing’ the pressure of being right falls away, the person regains confidence; hence blockages in the brain ease. We all know how it feels to have a mental ‘black-out’ when under pressure. A person diagnosed with dementia already has lower confidence and puts himself under pressure to be right. When forgetting something the frustration becomes bigger, hence the brain blockage; hence the anger…
Therefore, it is important to eliminate the concept of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. If there is no ‘wrong’ there is less pressure and the cognitive abilities are more likely to flow.
Great benefits, especially for seniors are:
- Stimulation of mental activity, through association
- Increase of self-confidence with the help of the team spirit
- Reinforcement of creativity and the use of the imagination/ visualization
- Encouragement of a more positive joyful attitude leading to a more cheerful approach to life
In addition, these activities can also
- Improve short term memory, long term memory and recognition
- Help to improve self esteem
‘Humor production improves our creative (problem solving) cognitive capacity, strengthens our memory, enhances social communication skills, and our ability to think on our feet. All of this vigorous mental activity, combined with the many benefits of a merry heart, help us be happy, enjoy the world around us, and delay or avoid the onset and impact of devastating neurodegenerative diseases (various forms of age, genetic, disease, free-radical and toxin-related dementia).’ More here
Since the beginning of August 2015, I am holding weekly specialised activity sessions for elderly at the Holborn Community Association (Millman Resource Centre) with astonishing results.
‘What impresses me is how Gudrun engages with the people who have dementia – they light up! It’s great to see the change in them.’
Richard Norman (Assistant Manager Older Peoples Service)
Since January 2017 and in collaboration with Dao Lu I am hosting monthly activity sessions for elderly at the Albany court in Chingford, as well as regular sessions for adults with learning difficulties in Hendon.
In further collaboration with CoolTan Arts centre I am offering free workshop sessions for adults with mental health issues.
Once a month I am running a workshop tailored for carers, family members, art facilitator and anyone else caring for elderly people with dementia at the Holborn Community Association (Millman Resource Centre).
This workshop is going to be intensively focused on three exclusive elements to enhance the relationship between the carer and the person who has dementia.
- Enjoy, love and deeply connect to yourself – this is one of the most significant aspects of modern care. Often we are so engaged in just looking out for others that we forget to care for ourselves. To reconnect, love and be able to enjoy yourself will improve joyfully the relationship with the person you care for.
- Play, laugh and love with the person with dementia. This part of the workshop introduces you to creative, interactive and fun activities which can increase the imagination of the person with dementia as well as the carer. In addition you will be able to fully experience the concept of ‘blocking’ and will be shown how to work around them. Different ways of communication can ease the confusion, the stress and the fear.
- The last part of the workshop will show you how being connected joy fully to yourself will reinforce, support and ease your routine of caring for someone else
These special designed sessions are also a great benefit for the relationship between the service user and his carer, as they are reinforcing their bonding through fun, relaxed and creative interaction.
Check out when the next workshop is on & book your ticket for a fantastic evening.
Videos of my work
The Alphabet Game
Sound & Movement
“Improv is all about being in the moment, which for someone with memory loss, that is a very safe place. Maybe thinking about the past and trying to remember makes the person a little anxious or even a bit sad because their memory is failing. And maybe thinking about the future too much is also anxiety-provoking. So being in the moment is such a safe and a good place to be. There’s no experience required, there’s no script, there’s no memorization. They bring to it just their creative potential. And they are so successful at this.”
(Mary O’Hara, a social worker at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.)
Please contact me to book a session
These session are NOT suitable for people with severe Dementia.
I am fully DBS (previously CBR) checked as well as fully insured.
Please contact me or call me under 0774 838 9432 for more information or bookings