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Arts center aims to be 'dementia inclusive' with new program

Edmonds Beacon of Edmonds, Washington

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The Edmonds Center for the Arts has set its sights on providing programming for those with dementia, their caregivers and families with its new "Dementia-Inclusive Series."

"This series meets a need and an accessibility that we haven't achieved yet," Education and Outreach Manager Gillian Jones said. Jones reached out to local organizations to put together a program that includes improvisation and theater classes, and films from the Golden Age of cinema specifically chosen to appeal to those with memory loss. The series is underway, and Marketing Director Tina Stryker said ECA would like patrons who are moving into their golden years to know the center will provide for their needs.

"We're invested, and we care," Stryker said. "And, the fun keeps going."

In collaboration with local senior service organizations, eldercare and memory care professionals and arts groups, Jones developed "Re-Ignite the Mind with Improvisation & Play" workshops and "Musicals are Golden!: A Celebration of Classic Film" movie screenings.

While several workshops have already taken place, there's still an opportunity to attend one from 10:30 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Nov. 10.

The drop-in classes are led by actors from Seattle's Taproot Theatre and feature improvisation and theater games that will "tap into the creative abilities of individuals with early stage memory loss and their care partners."

Jones said three couples — all husbands with wives who have dementia — attended the first workshop on Oct. 20, and there was lots of laughter as participants experienced what it was like to "perform" backstage.

"The format works well for people with dementia, "Jones said, "because it [improvisation] doesn't require any preparation."

Attendance grew by the third workshop on Nov. 3, and Jones said the fun continued.

"Based on the response," she said, "we're hoping to organize more of these workshops in the New Year."

The first film event on Oct. 10 featured "Singin' in the Rain," with a live introductory performance by dancers from Edmonds Barclay Shelton Dance Centre. The film series was designed to be interactive and entertaining for a multi-generational audience.

There were about 115 people in attendance, and those with dementia were encouraged to talk or move around during the film.

"Audience members were made aware that some patrons may talk or get up during the film — which is OK," Jones said.

The theater lights also were kept low for patrons to move around if necessary

Jones worked with Elderwise, a Seattle-based nonprofit that provides programming for elders, to select the films. She said "musical" movies were chosen, because music is a trigger in the brain for memories.

"People also love to sing," Jones said.

Socializing was encouraged in other ways, with tables in the lobby for coffee and cookies.

"For people with memory loss and their caregivers, isolation and depression can be a concern," Stryker said. "We wanted it to be as social as possible."

The next film will be "Peter Pan" at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 5. It is a silent film, but Jones said there will be an accompanying harpist.

"It will be a quieter, more calm event," she said. "A Golden Era Sing-Along" will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 30.

Stryker said the ECA is "doing so much more than just putting on concerts."

"My job is to give someone an experience here," she said. "It's a gift that we're putting out there."

Stryker said ECA is accessible to everyone, and invites the community to participate in its many programs.

Admission to the "Re-Ignite the Mind with Improvisation & Play" workshops is $10 and covers the participant and one caregiver or family member. To sign up, call the ECA Box Office at 425-275-9595. Tickets for "Musicals are Golden!: A Celebration of Classic Film" screenings are $10. To purchase tickets, visit or call the box office. Subsidized $2 admission tickets also are available to seniors with limited disposable income through the Arts for Everyone program.

For more information about the "Dementia-Inclusive Series," contact Jones at or 425-275-9483.

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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015

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