Elder Arts 

Cincinnati, OH  --  ElderArts, created in 2016, is a Dramakinetics program specifically for people who have Alzheimer’s-type dementia that uses music, movement, and drama to awaken and preserve the parts of memory cut off by this terrible disease, engage in community, and empower dignity and resilience as they face daily challenges. 

Research has shown that active music making provides a form of therapy for Alzheimer’s patients that may stimulate cognitive activities such that areas subject to progressive failures are maintained. (Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy:  February 1994)  

In spite of tragic loss of abilities, people with dementia can still find pleasure and experience satisfaction with a little help. This disease strips away many things, but does not remove the person’s ability to appreciate, respond to and experience feelings of joy and love. Indeed, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, “the quality of life of the person with Alzheimer’s disease must be a central focus of care.”  

Dramakinetics, a local nonprofit with 12 years of experience, is looking to expand its Elder Arts Program.  A Lead Instructor and Assistant Instructor, who have degree in Education, Recreation Therapy, or Theater, teach each session. A typical class offers short spurts of fun activities including singing, instruments, deep breathing, acting, movement, and a Question of the Day. This carefully researched and proven method enables residents to explore their own creativity, memories, and abilities. The instructors consistently encourages interaction between the participants to help them connect with one another and foster an atmosphere of community.

Recently, Dramakinetics asked the Activities Directors of the memory care units that currently host Elder Arts how well the program is meeting its four goals.  With five being the highest number, they responded that Elder Arts: 

1)     increased the positive attitude of the residents --4.7

2)     increased social interaction and building of community -- 4.3

3)     increased physical movement  --4.7

4)     increased memory of personal history --3.7 

One long time Activity Director shared that of all the programs she has seen over the years, Elder Arts is the “most effective I’ve seen” and calls it an “amazing program.” She says that she loves watching the residents light up while singing.

Another commented, “The residents who don't normally participate are kicking the 'soccy' ball or have a response to the question at the end. The short intervals of different activities within the session hold their attention making residents less likely to fall asleep or lose concentration.” 

There are 84 nursing homes in the Greater Cincinnati area according to Senior Advice.  Dramakinetics wishes to expand to 10 additional nursing homes this year with plans to continue expansion until the majority of local nursing homes can offer this wonderful program so that more seniors with memory loss can experience the benefits. 

If you know a facility that may want to host a Dramakinetics class, please contact Dramakinetics’ Executive Director and Elder Arts Instructor at jgora@rocketmail.com.   

Through the use of Music, Movement, and Drama we are able to empower individuals with dementia to face the challenges that are presented and preserve their memories before they are lost.

This program uses the Dramakinetics method to help the participants reawaken their minds and bodies.

The class begins with movement exercises that are adaptable and allow individuals in any physical condition to participate. Then rhythm instruments are passed out and the class works together to create/replicate music. From there the teacher leads the class in a variety of games that promote coordination and gross motor exercise.  The main focus of the class is to create performance pieces that involve singing and moving to songs that might trigger memories for the class. After rehearsing the performance piece individuals of the class are encouraged to share a memory or answer prompt questions presented by the instructor.

The individuals who take part in this program not only are able to grow individually and participate in a fun afternoon activity, but they develop friendships that enable them to find strength in the day to day activities. They take notice of one another and are able to reconnect with the people around them.

Kathy Pohl Wagner Music Program 

Dramakinetics believes that combining music with physical activity would produce even greater positive effects on cognitive function in elderly people.  A study done of the effects of physical exercise paired with music showed a greater impact upon the cognitive function in elderly people than that of music alone. (1) 

 This individualized program is designed to help increase comfort and decrease anxiety of individuals during hospice and assisted living settings as either a preparation prior to joining the group, or as a one-on-one activity. Currently, we are using KPW as a program to be used by caregivers and family members during visits with the selected residents.