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‘Withness’: Creative spectating for residents living with advanced dementia in care homes

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Aiming to illustrate the potential for puppetry as a useful resource in dementia care, the authors argue unusually that play with puppets derives not particularly from drama or theatre, but fundamentally from the performative relationship people have with objects. The puppeteers of the study achieved remarkable emotional connection with care-home residents through an experience of puppetry, which dissolved the unitary autonomy of the puppet, recontextualizing it relationally as the puppeteer-with-puppet-with-spectator. It is this ‘withness’ that ignited the creative spark of presence of the residents. For a moment of trust and child-like joy kinaesthetic memories stirred in them, appearing to break down emotional barriers between the person and the world around them and indicating comparatively longer-term therapeutic benefits.
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Keywords: care home; dementia; object; proximity; puppets; spectator

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: London School of Puppetry 2: 0000000122324004University of Derby

Publication date: July 1, 2020

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  • The Journal of Applied Arts and Health serves a wide community of artists, researchers, practitioners and policy-makers evidencing the effectiveness of the interdisciplinary use of arts in health and arts for health. It provides a forum for the publication and debate within an interdisciplinary field of arts in healthcare and health promotion. The journal defines 'health' broadly which includes physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, occupational, social and community health.
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