Storytelling is one of the most ancient forms of communication — it is how we learn about the world. It turns out that for people with dementia, storytelling can be therapeutic. It can give people who don’t communicate well an alternative way to communicate, using an activity that sparks memories, encourages verbalization and promotes self-esteem among those with dementia
Based on the national TimeSlips program, Emily Carvill, Assistant Director of OPICA’s Counseling Center uses the art of storytelling to engage and build community through an activity that provides hope through meaningful communication and connection.
Emily begins with a photo and asks participants to imagine what’s going on — not to try to remember anything, but to make up a story, replacing the pressure to remember with the freedom to imagine. Open-ended questions are employed, such as: “What should we call the person?” “Where are they going?” “What could this be?” “What is going on here?” At other times more direct questions are used to help members focus and crystallize their thoughts. Expanding the rules for storytelling makes more room for imagination.
The above picture of the good looking man taking a walk with a lion was used to stimulate the story below by OPICA’s storytelling group. As you can see in our selected story from a recent storytelling session, creative storytelling does not have to have a beginning, middle and end, nor does it have to make sense.
The Animals Can be Your Friend If You Wear a Zoot Suit
The lion’s name is Cecil Lionel. The guy’s name is Sam the man, he is from San Juan. They are in Kenya, Africa. They met at the zoo; the man was in the cage and the lion came to visit him. The man got out of his cage by cutting all the bars on his cage with a saw and escaped in broad daylight. After Sam got out he learned that Cecil Lionel had the key the whole time.
The zoo is a human zoo. Lions, zebras, giraffes and monkeys all take care of the humans in the cages. The lion is also a weather man, but he’s lying about the weather. He does weather forecasts for all the animals; he also does weddings.
Cecil Lionel is married; his wife Gwendolyn is at home taking care of the cubs, Toby, Adolf and Benjamin. Currently, the lion is taking the person to meet his family. They also have a cousin named Fred who is half lion, half human. He goes to school in the human zoo and studies zoology.
Sam the man is wearing a zoot-suit to look cute. He wore the suit today because he knew he would be meeting the lion’s family. The lion has lots of friends. Sam didn’t used to have lots of friends but slowly he has made more friends. He currently has 3 ½ friends. He only has ½ a friend because a lion ate the other half.
Up until this point only 3 humans have escaped the zoo. They are all friends with each other. In fact, all of them are related. The zoo is less like a zoo and more like Cincinnati. They are very smart in Cincinnati and one big happy family.
There are still humans in the zoo but the animals are voting to release them all. Even though the humans were previously in cages, the humans take care of the animals once they are released. In fact, they all take care of each other.
And they all lived happily ever after…..