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The Memory Ensemble: Using Improvisation to Improve Quality of Life for Persons Living with Dementia

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Start : 11:00 AM Pacific
End : 12:00 PM Pacific

Part of the National Alzheimer's and Dementia Resource Center webinar series sponsored by the Administration for Community Living.

Register now for FREE

Includes complimentary CEUs

The Memory Ensemble™—a seven-year partnership between the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’ Disease Center, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine and the Lookingglass Theatre company—is an eight-week improvisational theater intervention program for people with early stage dementia. The mission of the Memory Ensemble is to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their families; to investigate the benefits of this non-pharmacological intervention; and to translate these benefits to other communities. This web seminar will provide participants with a history of the Memory Ensemble; a brief review of the literature on the impact of the arts and improvisation on dementia and aging; a review of Memory Ensemble research findings to date; an introduction to foundational principles of improvisation and how they apply to work with persons with dementia; examples of activities in which participants can engage in multiple settings to improve quality of life for and with people living with dementia; and suggestions for further reading.

Participants in this web seminar will be able to:

  • List three positive outcomes for participants in Memory Ensemble;
  • Describe a fundamental idea of improvisation—“yes, and”—and how engaging this idea can be useful for working with people with dementia; and,
  • Describe and implement four improvisational activities—check-in, warm-up, skill-building, check-out—that can be used and/or adapted for working with persons living with dementia in multiple settings.


Darby Morhardt is associate professor for the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center (CNADC) and Department of Preventive Medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She leads the CNADC’s Outreach and Recruitment, the Miller Alzheimer Family Support Program, and social work services for the Northwestern Medicine Neurobehavior and Memory Clinic.


Christine Mary Dunford, co-founder of the Memory Ensemble, is an ensemble member with the Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago where she has acted in, written, adapted or directed more than two dozen original productions. Her adaptation of the novel, Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, premiered at Lookingglass in 2013, and opened in England this last February. Christine is also an associate professor and director of the School of Theatre and Music at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


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