NZ Council of Christian Social Services Thursday 29 March 2012, 1:02PM
Media release from NZ Council of Christian Social
Question: Is the growing incidence of dementia in our ageing
population a laughing matter? Answer: With dementia rates likely to
double within the next 30 years definitely not - but a method of
making the experience of dementia less stressful could be.
People attending this week's 2012 Services for Older People
conference in Wellington (Thursday and Friday, 29-30 March) will be
hearing how humour therapy and play - as practised by 'clown
doctor' Jean-Paul Bell - have been proven to markedly reduce
serious agitation levels experienced by older people with dementia
(by an average of 20%).
Jean-Paul Bell is renowned in Australia for his work setting up the
Humour Foundation, and more recently his work in support of the
Dementia Collaborative Research Centre's SMILE study and the Play
Up program run by the Arts Health Institute. Play Up stimulates and
engages people in particularly high care situations by reinforcing
positive memories and connections in a playful manner. This
approach can often kick-start a person's oral skills again and lead
them to showing their own personal humour.
Earlier this month Australia's national ABC television network
screened a documentary about the SMILE study and Play Up approach
titled "The Smile Within - Where there is life, there is laughter".
This film documented the study, and followed Jean-Paul Bell as he
delivered the humour intervention to residents in aged care
facilities. It also featured staff from the aged care sector,
family members of the residents and the academics and researchers
who initiated and ran the study, Professor Henry Brodaty, Dr
Lee-Fay Low and Dr Belinda Goodenough
Jean-Paul is no stranger to being filmed and was the subject of a
2009 documentary showing how laughter-inducing physical comedy
could cross borders into war-torn Afghanistan.
The theme for the 2012 Services for Older People conference is
"Moving Forward Together, Nuku Tahi - Hikoi Tahi - Maranga Tahi"
and the venue is Te Raukara - Te Wharewaka o Poneke on the
Other presenters will be holding workshops that focus on dementia,
including Dr Chris Perkins, author of the book "Dementia: A New
Zealand Guide" and director of Auckland-based Selwyn Centre for
Ageing and Spirituality, will be discussing other dimensions of
dementia. Grace O'Sullivan, of AUT, will talk about changing the
culture of dementia care through all levels of service. Grace
argues that dementia should be a national health priority.
NZCCSS is the national umbrella organisation for the churches'
social service agencies. NZCCSS supporting members are the Anglican
Care network, Baptist Churches of New Zealand, Catholic Social
Services, Presbyterian Support Services and the Methodist and
Salvation Army churches. Under its "Valuing Older People" programme
NZCCSS provides a hub for information and resources that cover the
following strands: Social services and Older People; Care and
Support in the Community; Poverty and Older People; Housing;
Workforce; Dementia and Alzheimers; Spirituality and Ageing; and
Research on Ageing. For further background see: www.nzccss.org.nz