Participatory arts programs in residential dementia care: Playing with language differences

Aagje Swinnen*, Kate de Medeiros

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article examines connections between language, identity, and cultural difference in the context of participatory arts in residential dementia care. Specifically, it looks at how language differences become instruments for the language play that characterizes the participatory arts programs, TimeSlips and the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project. These are two approaches that are predominantly spoken-word driven. Although people living with dementia experience cognitive decline that affects language, they are linguistic agents capable of participating in ongoing nego- tiation processes of connection, belonging, and in- and exclusion through language use. The analysis of two ethnographic vignettes, based on extensive fieldwork in the closed wards of two Dutch nursing homes, illustrates how TimeSlips and the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project sup- port them in this agency. The theoretical framework of the analysis consists of literature on the linguistic agency of people living with dementia, the notions of the homo ludens (or man the player) and ludic language, as well as linguistic strategies of belonging in relation to place.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-774
Number of pages12
JournalDementia: The International Journal of Social Research and Practice
Issue number6
Early online date14 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • participatory arts
  • personhood
  • dementia care
  • play
  • language play
  • Alzheimer's poetry project
  • TimeSlips
  • homo ludens
  • language differences

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