By Joan Klasson
As a puppeteer and therapy-dog owner, I visit senior citizens’ facilities, both private and subsidized. I meet many folks who suffer from dementia or memory loss.
One such person is "Agnes" who communicates only through song. Her conversation is one sort of melody after another. Judging by the songs, she must be a retired elementary school music teacher.
Another time, at a different facility, "Molly" was having a fit. She was protesting the staff wouldn't let her go home. She felt it was time to go home. And she wasn’t having part of this anymore.
“This is where you live,” a staff member told her. I could tell she was agitated.
Then Molly looked at me, and I looked at her. And almost as if on cue, we both began to sing: Show Me the Way to go Home / I’m tired and I want to go to bed / I had a little drink about an hour ago / and it’s gone right to my head.
Singing that song diffused the tension, and she calmed down. This is the effect music can have on the people with agitation.
Spreading Joy to Seniors Through Puppets and Music
But not all people consider fun as an essential part of life. In their eyes, fun is not as important as, say, food or clothing. Medical care, housing, and self-maintenance all rank higher than fun. Before anybody can have some fun, those need should be taken care of first, leaving fun to get lost in the shuffle.
You all can imagine the many health benefits of laughter, which is a by-product of fun. Laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and increases muscle flexion. Chuckling and Guffawing increases blood circulation and makes us more resistant to infection. Laughter just makes everyone feel happy!
After approaching Joan Klasson about writing copy for her fledgling nonprofit, I joined forces with Small Wonders Entertainment in the summer of 2017. I had no idea it would balloon into so much more.
While freelancing for Small Wonders Entertainment (SWE), I helped build the SWE website and am pitching-in to maintain it. This is our first blog post. I'm really jazzed to start telling everybody about Small Wonders Entertainment.
Age appropriate entertainment is the greatest benefit we offer. Seniors and those in memory care can't resist the effect that old songs and familiar music have on them. Our performances are dubbed Senior Follies.
Louis Armstrong's Hello Dolly, gets people hopping. That, along with a Sinatra classic, never fails to engage.
When the old folks hear the classics of their era they start singing along or tapping their toes. Some sway to the beat, while others dance in their chairs. They experience what is known as the joy effect.
SWE is a Show Business Nonprofit who is entertaining more people than ever. Last year, our traveling show visited over 400 seniors and memory care patients.
We perform musical puppet shows all over Austin for senior care facilities and respite groups. We feature Classic, Patriotic and Holiday themes. Teaming up with VSA and Meals on Wheels is an added dimension.
We are excited about the chance to partner with VSA Texas and support their Mobile Arts Program, M.A.P. They have been providing art activities to seniors with disabilities in Austin since 2007. VSA inquired about our puppet shows and the possibility of partnering starting this year.
A partnership with Meals on Wheels has been ongoing for over a year. Small Wonders performs at Mike's Place, a Meals on Wheels' Alzheimer's respite, at least twice a month.
You Can Become a Partner, Today
With your continued donations we can create better shows and branch out into other services for the elderly, like puppet building. If you would like to see our type of Joy Therapy continue for seniors, please become a partner by donating or volunteering, today.
Stay tuned for next time, when we talk about how Joan includes the art of Bunraku.