This paper is a humanities-based inquiry, applying Huizinga’s framework of homo ludens (“man the player”) to consider “play” in the context of two participatory arts programs (TimeSlips and the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project) for people living with dementia. “Play,” according to this Dutch historian, is at the heart of human activity and what gives meaning to life. Despite empirical research on play across the life course, play in dementia care is a relatively new idea. In addition, there is a dearth of reports based on humanistic inquiry which has slightly different goals than the growing body of qualitative and quantitative studies of participatory arts interventions. Play is not used to infantilize and trivialize people living with dementia but as a way to explore potential for expression, meaning-making, and relationship-building in later life. The arts programs were conducted at two residential care facilities, Scharwyerveld and De Beyart, in the Netherlands over 10 weeks. Close readings of the transcripts and notes from the programs resulted in three observations: people learned to play again, there is power in playing together, and play often led to expressions of joy. Overall, the notion of play may be a helpful framework for future research into innovative arts-based approaches to dementia care.
- Participatory arts
- Dementia care
- Alzheimer's Poetry Project
- Humanistic inquiry
- CREATIVE EXPRESSION INTERVENTION