TimeSlips Storytelling Program Launches a Creative Care Revolution for People Living With Dementia

April 16, 2019

MILWAUKEE, WI–As our bodies and minds change with age, and frailty and memory loss threaten to separate us, the TimeSlips creative storytelling program offers hope by showing how creativity and imagination can re-connect us. To spur a creative care revolution, the newly re-launched website provides more than 300 free resources and activities in the newly expanded Creativity Center to make meaningful engagement a reality for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, their families and caregivers, and people serving them in community-based organizations and residential care facilities.

Making up stories together is at the heart of the TimeSlips concept. By providing users with playful photographic and verbal prompts and questions to guide the creation of an original story, TimeSlips releases people living with dementia from the pressure to remember and replaces it with the freedom to imagine.

“At TimeSlips, we believe that even in our latest and most frail moments, we are capable of creating beauty and meaning,” said Anne Basting, PhD, the founder and president of TimeSlips, a professor of theater at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and a MacArthur Fellow. “By making so many new resources widely available, we hope to spark a creative revolution in care, offering people a joyful opportunity for connection, even in the midst of the stress and pain that are often part of living with dementia.”

The new resources in the Creativity Center include:

  • Beautiful Questions, such as, “What is the most beautiful sound in the world?” or “What is something you could teach someone?”
  • Gentle Conversation prompts that inspire simple sensory responses.
  • The classic TimeSlips prompt Imagine a Story, using a whimsical, comic, or vintage photograph and open-ended questions to inspire elders and their companions or caregivers to make up an original (and often freewheeling) story together.

These fun, low-pressure approaches allow people with dementia to connect with one another and with caregivers and family members, and to express themselves through storytelling without worrying about embarrassing memory lapses or “wrong answers.”  See a video of TimeSlips in action here.

One TimeSlips participant put it this way: “It makes you feel like you can just fly anywhere – go anywhere you want to with this. And you feel good about it – happy and pleased.”

Anne Basting first envisioned TimeSlips in 1996 when she tried (and failed) to use theater workshop techniques to engage nursing home residents. Rather than giving up, she improvised, showing the group a magazine ad of the cowboy-like “Marlboro Man” and tossing out questions about him (“What should his name be?”), then recording the crowd-sourced responses (“His name is Fred!” “Fred what?” “Fred Astaire!”)

To her amazement, even people who had been nonverbal in previous sessions began to participate, singing and laughing along with nursing home staffers. “It felt like a miracle,” Basting recalls.

TimeSlips’ creative approaches are used around the world in care communities, museums, libraries, senior centers, and individual homes, and are delivered and taught by formally credentialled creative facilitators and Master Trainers in 47 states and 19 countries.

Training is available for organizations interested in joining the creative care revolution by becoming certified as Creative Communities of Care.

TimeSlips models true person-centered care and has been shown to increase the quality and quantity of engagement between staff and residents in nursing homes and lead to enhanced verbal skills, positive behavioral changes, more communication, and less confusion in people living with dementia. Reflecting the strength of its evidence base, TimeSlips is featured on the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) Innovations Exchange.

Around the world, 47 million people live with dementia, affecting 190 million close family and friends. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementias, and the number of people affected is expected to rise as the population ages.

The massive expansion of the TimeSlips web platform was supported by Bader Philanthropies, the Retirement Research Foundation, and an anonymous donor. The site was designed and developed by, with design consulting from Lafayette American and illustrations by Violeta Noy. The new online training was developed by Hadiya Nuriddin with Focus Learning Solutions.

TimeSlips is a non-profit alliance of artists and caregivers bringing meaning and joy to late life through creative engagement. The core improvisational storytelling method is evidence-based and has been replicated by Certified Facilitators in 47 states and 19 countries. The Creative Communities of Care training infuses creativity into organizations serving elders including skilled nursing, assisted living, independent living, senior centers, memory cafés, and museums. Timeslips believes every human being deserves to feel meaning and purpose, and that growth and expression is possible all the way through the end of our lives.

Related Articles

Back to top button