Disrupt Dementia is a paradigm-shifting non-fiction theater performance designed to de-stigmatize dementia and open a space for new possibilities. During 2016, Disrupt Dementia visited 35 communities across North America as part of Dr. Bill Thomas’ ChangingAging Tour. During these performances we blended verbatim quotes from people living with dementia from ethnographic and participatory action research and powerful first-hand accounts; storytelling; art; live theater and music to shatter damaging myths about dementia and explore how people living with dementia can teach us all to live more fully. We shared songs and stories that were equally heart wrenching and inspiring, showing how our culture’s dominant ‘tragedy-only narrative’ around dementia adds suffering, and how we can transcend it. We are honored to have brought the wisdom of elders who touched our lives to you. For 2017, we have big plans to take Disrupt Dementia to the next level.
“The real purpose of the ChangingAging Tour is to explore the hidden dimensions of our shared humanity,” says geriatrician and Tour founder Dr. Bill Thomas. “This year we are challenging ourselves and our audience to embrace the phenomenon of dementia and the people who experience it as teachers and collaborators.”
Tour director Kavan Peterson, who lives in Seattle, said the inspiration for “Disrupt Dementia” came from Seattle’s Momentia movement and other self-advocates around the world.
“We’re challenging the status quo that looks at older adults and in particular people living with cognitive change as less valuable members of society,” Peterson said. “Not only do we reject that argument, we believe that elders, especially those living with cognitive change, can teach us how to make communities better for everyone.”
To create the 2017 version of the show, we are hiring an advisory team of self-advocates who are living with dementia. Partnering with our team of advisors, we are hosting a participatory theater workshop and retreat in Seattle to co-create an updated script for the 2017 Disrupt Dementia performance. In addition to the advisory team, we are hiring up to 20 additional workshop participants including people living with dementia, family and professional care partners.
We designed the retreat using the methodologies of Appreciative Inquiry and Liberating Structures, two complementary methodologies designed to foster genuine inclusion and participation. We will start by exploring and celebrating the ‘best of what is’ within the context of dementia today. We know there are many people living well with cognitive changes, but their stories are sorely underrepresented. Then we will tap into our collective imaginations to dream into ‘what could be’ if we could harness and build on the ‘best of what is’. Dreaming together, we will co-design a vision for ‘what should be’. Finally, we will synthesize the aspirations and creative input of the workshop to update Disrupt Dementia’s script and showcase this performance on stages across America.
“This workshop dares to ask unconditionally positive questions about living with dementia,” says Dr. Jennifer Carson, Disrupt Dementia cast member, assistant research professor and director of the academic gerontology program at the University of Nevada-Reno and lead facilitator of Dementia Friendly Nevada. “We aim to tap into and harness rich, inspiring accounts of living well with dementia.
“If what we focus on becomes our reality, then you can understand why these positive experiences need to be shared,” Dr. Carson said. “This country needs an alternative to the dominant tragedy narrative. We need hope! In this workshop, we will co-create an image of a more ideal future for persons living with dementia in partnership with persons living with dementia, the true experts.”
Basing our work on tried and true methods, including authentic partnership, participatory action research, appreciative inquiry and liberating structures, all voices will be heard and documented in a way that can be shared academically and artistically. We will explore new ways to weave together music, storytelling, art and theater to create a performance to celebrate of the wisdom of elders living with dementia. Disrupt Dementia is truly a passion project for our whole team and we could not be more excited about this next permutation.
You can help us make this dream a reality. We are seeking organizations interested in sponsoring Disrupt Dementia to help fund the script-development retreat and help bring the world a new dementia story. If you are interested in getting involved with our events as a sponsor – please contact us here. We are fervent in our belief that we all deserve to be compensated and credited for our time and talents, and this especially goes for self-advocates with lived expertise.
*The Changing Aging Tour and ChangingAging.org are programs of The Center for Growing And Becoming, Inc., an IRS-recognized 501c3 not-for-profit organization incorporated in Ithaca, NY. EIN: 16-1563408. Sponsorships are tax deductible