For the past year or so, taking some of my knowledge about acting to a lovely assisted living and memory care facility in my area. Through the use of improvisation and sense memory, we are really making a nice connection. Most of them are in need of memory care. While working with them, I talk about the importance of keeping our minds sharp and our memories alive, by giving our brains a good workout.
Maybe I worry about some day losing my memory or being able to think on the spot and interact with others. As we age, so many things pile up in our minds. It’s like putting so much data into a computer that it finally crashes.
So how do you exercise the mind? First and foremost, don’t take the easy way out. Escaping by falling asleep or planting yourself in front of a TV filled with mindless information is not the kind of workout I’m talking about . Do crossword puzzles – sing the words of your favorite song – play bingo – do a puzzle – play a board game – play the piano – dance – or think on the spot through improvisation.
I love to think of improvisation as a necessary tool in the actor’s tool box, but it can also be useful for all of us. The art of improv is like having an impromptu conversation and stirring the brain to interact and react. We have to think when we talk to each other – being mindful of the words we use and how we say them. Improv sharpens communication in every area of life.
We’ve kind of lost grips on the art of talking to each other. Texting and emailing have taken the joy out of our lives, because we’re missing that interaction that is vital to communication. You can’t see how someone really feels by looking at an emoji. Body language also gives us clues as to how a person is responding.
One of the blessings of working with my memory care people is that they’re exercising their minds. Most of them are living their current lives through their past memories. They often believe they’re still living in their childhood homes or that long lost relatives are still alive. When they do the exercises I’ve offered them, they seem to come back to living in the moment, which becomes more and more difficult as we age. I should know.
Each one of these precious adults has a story to tell. It may get a bit muddled from time to time, or the words don’t always come out as we intended, but we as a society must begin to revere the elderly like they did in the old days – even when their thought process gets confused. They have a mountain of information in their data bases and can mentor, entertain or tell stories that can’t be communicated over the internet.
Remember, someday you will be one of the elderly in society. Don’t become invisible. Stay active and exercise your mind daily. You still have a voice, you still have purpose and you are amazing.