Finding Meaning In Late Life With Art

June 5, 2017


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TimeSlips Creative Storytelling is a program based on the therapeutic power of stories. The idea is to use photos and other prompts with people with memory loss and ask them to imagine what’s going on – they don’t have to remember anything but just make something up. Forget memory, they say. Try imagination.

Anne Basting from the Center on Age and Community at UW-Milwaukee created the program. She sees it as a low-stress way to communicate with people who might otherwise seem unreachable.  

“I think one of the big fears of aging isn’t death, but meaninglessness. Will my life be meaningful?” says Basting. “The work we do with TimeSlips is about bringing meaning to late life – to make sure that people, even those with dementia, can feel that they matter – to their families, to their communities.”  

Since the program began in 1998, it has been used by people around the world. The program has been used by people around the world. Its main audiences are families, care providers, and people with dementia, though Basting has found that it’s a fun process that many people can and have found useful. 

Over the last year, Basting and her team have worked with fifty nursing homes around Wisconsin to teach them creative engagement methods. 

“We wanted to teach them to build a sense of meaning and community,” describes Basting. “Joy, meaning and purpose is possible at any stage of life.”  

The residents in these facilities used the TimeSlips method to create stories. Basting and her team then selected four stories and collaborated with the elders to create works of art from the stories. A UWM dance class worked with elders at St. John’s on the Lake in Milwaukee to create original choreography and select music for each story. Artists made screen prints inspired by the stories. An animator put the music, stories, and art together to accompany the dancers in a performance at the Annual Wisconsin State Alzheimers Conference in May 2017.

“Their stories matter.  The joy in their voices and their humor in the words and movements were palpable,” says Basting. “Creativity is truly the way we can connect and find meaning.”  


This story was produced in partnership with TimeSlips.

2018-02-10T23:11:31-06:00Tags: , , , |

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