The “mateys” at Ecumen Prairie Lodge in Brooklyn Center recently put on a pirate play, complete with pretend swords, sea monsters, booty and buccaneers.  It was a glorious day of make-believe on the high seas as residents starred in Ahoy, Me Pirate Tale! — an interactive, improvisational play designed specifically for people with dementia. 

The play is part of the Scripted-IMPROV™ Drama Program, developed by Dr. John Zeisel, a dementia expert, former actor and President of Hearthstone Alzheimer’s Care. “The important thing to remember,” Dr. Zeisel says, “is that people with dementia can improvise and respond to situations as easily as anybody else. The ability to imagine, improvise and have fun never goes away.”

Janelle Meyers, Ecumen Regional Manager of Memory Care, said the play is all about the process of engagement, not the end product.  “This approach focuses on what people can do — not what they can’t,” Janelle said. “There’s no right or wrong way. The most important thing is that the residents have fun.”

And they did.  They were laughing, smiling, moving, talking and engaging with the Prairie Lodge activity staff, who led them through the flexible script.  The fun comes in the improvisation.

“It’s different every time they do it,” said Gabbi Langan, Housing Director at Prairie Lodge. 

It took more than three months to prepare, led by the Life Enrichment staff — Michael Ashworth, Sherrie Dahlin and Mandy Hogan.  “At first, we didn’t know how this was going to come together,” Sherrie said. But practicing each week with activities provided by the Scripted-IMPROV™ gave residents the skills and confidence they needed to deal with a complex task.  Also, the residents helped make the props for the play.

For more background on the program, see this earlier post.