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'Sharing Joy' with dementia patients

​People with dementia, their carers, volunteers, families and the public were given the chance to use music, dance, nostalgia, puppetry and laughter to celebrate life during a special theatre production’s visit to Norfolk.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) arranged for Vamos Theatre to give a performance of 'Sharing Joy', a show specifically for people living with dementia, at the Wymondham Dementia Support Café at Fairland Church Centre. The audience included NSFT service users and carers, members of the dementia support café, which donated use of the venue, and the public.

Sharing Joy is set in the 1940s and 1950s, and features courting couples, wartime nurses, a singing dog, and even Elvis himself. It includes music and costumes designed to bring back memories, and encourages the audience to express themselves by singing along, dancing and joining in with the fun.

Its aim is to help people with dementia to connect in alternative ways while boosting their mental, physical health and wellbeing by taking part.

Lisa Breame, Dementia Trainer with NSFT, said: “I was stunned by the creativity and content of Sharing Joy, which enabled everyone to engage with the actors. The audience’s ages ranged from two to 80 years, and the performance clearly touched all who attended.

“The storyline was easy to follow despite not using any words, and was a great reminder of how we can communicate with people with dementia if speech becomes difficult, as well as the importance of visual cues and gestures. I can’t thank Vamos enough for finding funding and bringing this play to us, as well as Dianne, organiser of the dementia café, for providing the venue and refreshments.

“Nostalgia, culture and the arts can have a really positive impact on dementia care, helping combat social isolation and promoting emotional wellbeing. Sharing Joy encapsulates that by encouraging everyone to take part and enjoy themselves.”

Rachael Savage, Artistic Director of Vamos Theatre, said: “Sharing Joy is a celebration of life, it’s outrageously fun and we love every minute of it.”

Dianne Fernee, Organiser of the Wymondham Dementia Support Café, said: “Every year we do a pantomime and encourage people with dementia, their carers and families and our volunteers to get together and get involved. Hosting this event was a logical continuation of that work.

“I feel that drama is a great source of relief for people living with dementia and their carers, and helps them to express themselves in a way they would perhaps be unable to otherwise. It's also a very powerful way to share a message about dementia with those who know little about the condition.”

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