I’ve been working over the past few months with the Arts Health Institute, an amazing organisation headed by Jean Paul Bell and Maggie Haertsch. AHI runs a couple of programs for residents of Nursing Homes, particularly those with some level of Dementia. I’ve been involved with one of them, Play Up, and have been part of the training program for a second program, Sing Out Loud Together.
Play Up involves ‘Humour Therapy’ – the performer (that’s me!) teams up with a partner at an Aged Care Facility (the Play Up Partner – who might be a nurse, a diversional therapist, a cleaner, a kitchen hand – anyone who is able to engage on a fun level), and uses humour and comedy to engage with people who have dementia. They say that ‘laughter is the best medicine’, and we’re putting that maxim into practice!
The AHI were able to put a study together called ‘The Smile Study’, which showed really positive results amongst aged care residents when Humour Therapy was applied. You can find all about it at their website : http://www.artshealthinstitute.org.au
As I’ve been doing this work, taking my ukulele and jokes around to Nursing Homes, I’ve found I really love it. It’s amazing to see people lighting up when you sing a song, to hear them laugh, to see them engaging and enjoying life in what can be (from an outsider’s perspective) quite depressing circumstances.
The work I’ve been doing with AHI has also had a huge influence on the operatic performances I’ve been doing at other Aged Care facilities – it’s taught me about the need to engage and connect with all audiences, as well as entertain. This has meant that the performances I’ve given at those facilities have been amazingly uplifting, because we (the audiences and performers) have connected before, during and after all performances.
More on Sing Out Loud Together in the next post…