Tuesday, 28 November 2017 00:00

A local cinema-club challenges dementia stereotypes

A retired school teacher, who lives with dementia himself, managed to challenge dementia stereotypes with local cinema recently. In 2016 Keith Oliver teamed up with a close friend, Liz Jennings, to develop a local cinema club in Kent, aimed at entertaining dementia patients.

The stereotype is that dementia patients will not fully grasp or be able to sit through an entire movie screening – but Keith’s cinema club proved this stereotype wrong.

Keith and Liz were inspired to create a safe and comfortable environment for dementia suffers to enjoy and re-engage with cinema and their surrounding community.

Challenging Dementia Stereotypes

The project was supported by small grants from the Alzheimer’s Society and Innovations in Dementia, where Keith and Liz were able to plan 6 independent screenings. These screenings were scheduled between 10:30am and 1pm – an ideal time, as attention span and cognition tends to be sharper in the mornings for many dementia sufferers.

Wanting to challenge the ‘dementia friendly’ stereotype, Keith and Liz chose to screen movies only made in the last 6 years. They made use of the Forget-Me-Nots group, based in Canterbury, to come up with a list of 15 different films, in a range of genres. Eventually, they agreed upon 6 different films to show, including:

  • The King’s Speech (2010)
  • Paddington (2014)
  • The Way Way Back (2013)
  • The Monuments Men (2014)
  • A Walk in the Woods (2015)
  • Mao’s Last Dancer (2009)

Amazingly, the greatest response from all of the dementia patients who watched each film, was towards Mao’s Last Dancer. This is a film which requires added attention span as it is broadcast in both English and Chinese (subtitles). It also includes plenty of flashbacks to different periods of time. This film resonated the most with the dementia patients, who appeared to fully grasp the movie plot.

Discussions after each film presented findings that dementia sufferers, are in fact, able to engage with cinema and each other through social discussions of each film. This social experiment just goes to show that those living with dementia can still experience a rich and valuable life, with just a little bit of guidance.

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