A Little Drama Goes a Long Way

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 18 December 2008

If you missed the NBC Evening News on Wednesday, December 3rd, you missed a great report on the benefits of theatrics for improving seniors’ cognition. For the past 15 years, Drs. Helga and Tony Noice of Elmhurst College in Illinois have demonstrated that dramatic exercises can make a marked difference in memory, comprehension and problem-solving skills for older adults, not to mention the added benefit of improved quality of life. And they have the statistics — and three grants from the National Institutes of Health — to prove it.

The senior thespians in the report are clearly enjoying themselves – and it’s really a joy to watch. What better way to stay sharp than to have fun “acting out” with a group of your friends? We all know that laughter is great medicine, and numerous studies have illustrated the importance of staying connected with friends and family as a great way to stay mentally fit. We’ve also heard that doing crosswords and learning new languages can stimulate the brain, but some seniors might just want a little more excitement and social engagement than the isolation and sometimes complete frustration of a crossword puzzle (especially if you just can’t remember that darn five-letter word). They may just want to add some drama to their lives instead!

There are three main acting techniques used in the Noices 8 sessions, which typically last about 4 weeks: the mirror exercise, speaking in gibberish, and learning lines. According to Dr. Helga Noice, these exercises make the whole brain healthier by offering general stimulation. Dr. Tony Noice chimes in, stating that because acting requires the participant to “think, feel and do all at once,” it’s a complete workout for the brain. All of the exercises promote intense focus, sharpened concentration, and dynamic expression – all of which promote brain health. It’s really a win-win situation, and I believe the Noices deserve a round of applause for their work. Check out the news report and see these dramatic seniors in action. I guarantee you’ll want to join a class yourself, or go check out their first full-length performance!

-Michelle Seitzer


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