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"Act your age!" There are all kinds of ways that people are "supposed" to act at one or another time of life. For their part, seniors are expected to quiet down and wear sensible orthopedic shoes, right?
On the new episode of the podcast, I speak with Anne Basting, the Executive Director of the Center on Age & Community, and an Associate Professor in the theatre department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has thought a lot about the "social performance" of age in everyday life, as well as the heightened performance of age by senior theatre companies around the country -- of which there are hundreds, she says. She wrote a book about the topic, actually, called "The
Stages of Age: Performing Age in Contemporary American Culture." Later, she got to wondering how the theatrical work of such companies -- storytelling, improvisation, and so on -- might apply to people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. She devised a method she calls TimeSlips, in which she dispenses with reminiscing -- because people with dementia have difficulties with just that -- and instead uses pictures from magazines and elsewhere to prompt people to create stories of their own imagining. The process helps people with dementia exercise their imaginations, helps their families connect with them, and, I think, might lead to creative new forms of storytelling that can extend beyond clinical practice. Hers is an
imaginative, thoughtful, and loving approach.
Anne's latest book explores these and other matters in fascinating detail, and is called "Forget Memory: Creating Better Lives for People with Dementia." Also check her blog, which has timely and insightful things to say about theater, storytelling, and people with dementia.