Alzheimers and Play

“…play is a very primal activity. It is preconscious and preverbal – it arises out of ancient biological structures that existed before our consciousness or our ability to speak.” p15, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, by Stuart Brown, M.D.

If play is preverbal and even preconscious, it should be an effective way to connect with people whose short term memory and even ability to speak has deteriorated. Play can speak to that deeply embedded place in each of us which can light up with delight and fun and connection.

I am putting together a proposal to play with Alzheimers patients at a retirement home nearby. I haven’t yet tried the group, so this is all an intellectual (and yet playful) exercise so far. I’m excited by the possibilities though. To treat patients as people. To reach a place inside them where they can still connect and understand and feel human. I’m playing with ideas of how to do this, from bringing in balloons to practicing funny walks (ala the Ministry of Funny Walks from Monty Python) to rhyming to clowning. I want to take a clowning class now! I can picture myself going in with a balloon attached to my back, and pretending I don’t know it’s there and can’t see it. If and when I actually run this group, I will report to you the results. Has anyone out there tried this?

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