Imagination Never Dies

September 13, 2013  
Filed under Mature Matters

By Sarah Lemnah

The Flynn Theatre will present Sandglass’s Theater’s production of “D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks” this November. There are two things that make this production stand out—it uses puppets to tell a story and the story was written by and inspired by seniors in late-stage dementia.

Some may question how people with dementia could create this compelling story, others might question how could this possibly be moving and even funny in parts, while others will look for clues on how they can take the technique behind this story to help re-establish relationships with their loved ones living with dementia.

This production used a technique called TimeSlips. Developed in 1996 by Dr. Ann Basting at the University Of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center on Age and Community, this technique allows people with late-stage dementia who have trouble communicating find new ways to re-connect with their loved ones. Many people with dementia feel stressed from being in situations where they are being forced to try to remember. Using the TimeSlips method, they can relax and use their imaginations.

Basting had been using games to try to reach late-stage Alzheimer’s patients, and one day, out of frustration, she tore a picture of the Marlboro man out of a magazine and held it up and asked the seniors to tell a story about the picture. They did.

Since that time, studies have shown that people using TimeSlips become more socially engaged, have better relationships with caregivers, have more self-esteem and are seen differently by their caregivers. Their caregivers and loved ones can once again connect with them. People with advanced dementia can use their imaginations instead of their memory as the social catalyst.

Excerpts on the Sandglass Theater website are haunting, thought-provoking and humorous. This group did an amazing job of presenting information in a way that is gripping and will affect how you see dementia and how you interact with those living with it. At times, it provokes thought or sadness, but then a wave of laughter as you see the human spirit cannot be destroyed even when a person has late-stage dementia.

It is hard to believe these stories were written by people who many feel are no longer able to communicate. The imagination allows them the freedom not to worry about being right or wrong or of having to remember. Their imagination is their truth, there is no judgment.

One caregiver in the play talks about his experience working with a lady named Mary. “For a brief moment, it is like the light will go on and our eyes meet and she smiles and I smile and she laughs.”

TimeSlips allows them to use their imaginations to gain their freedom, something that is a rare commodity for someone who has become the one taken care of instead of being able to make their own decisions. However, it is not all hearts and flowers and the hard truth about living with dementia does come up—one character says she is “afraid of fading away.”

However, it is clear that the late-stage Alzheimer’s patients that wrote this play are not fading away. Their imaginations continue to soar and through it they can be connected to those they love. For more information about “D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks” or to purchase tickets, call the Flynn at 86-Flynn or visit

Sarah Lemnah writes on senior issues for CVAA. If you have questions on senior issues, call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119 or visit


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