Here's what to do: 

Activity #1: 

  • Have the group stand in a circle.
  • Instruct the group to close their eyes, and tap one volunteer on the shoulder and show them a notecard with an emotion on it.
  • Have everyone open their eyes and explain the activity. “Now we are going to do a freeze walk. Everyone will silently walk around the room and the person I chose will start doing something different after he or she counts to a number between 5 and 30. Without talking, let’s see how fast the whole group can catch on and mimic that.

Activity #2:

  • Have the group stand in a circle and choose someone to go in the middle.
  • Give the person in the middle a notecard with an emotion on it.
  • Without speaking the person in the middle will portray this emotion to the rest of the group.
  • Volunteers will then respond nonverbally to that emotion. For example, if the person in the middle acts out sadness, volunteers can give hugs, make funny faces to cheer her up, place a hand on their shoulder, etc.

Activity #3:

  • Split the groups into teams of three.
  • Two volunteers will face each other, and the third will stand between them.
  • The volunteer on the left will talk for two minutes straight about the weather, and the volunteer on the right will talk for two minutes straight about what she ate for dinner last night. The volunteer in the middle must carry on both conversations AND she must face who she is speaking to.

Activity #3:

  • Sit back down in a circle with your group and discuss the workshops.
    • How did it feel to be in the middle of two conversations?
    • Is nonverbal communication an effective way of showing emotions? 
    • Can nonverbal communication be an effective way of communicating support, kindness, or agreement? 
    • What are all of the ways of nonverbal communication that you can think of? 


What does it mean? 

In this workshop, each of you got to experience firsthand how seniors suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease may feel.The volunteer in the middle of the third activity probably experienced sensory overload, or felt very overwhelmed, at least at first.

 The first two activities were an example of nonverbal communication and picking up on nonverbal cues in order to communicate or comfort others. Sometimes, seniors dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia feel overwhelmed in crowded rooms when there are a lot of people, movements and sounds to process. We need to be patient in communicating with them. This is where nonverbal communication comes in handy. Even if your conversations don't make sense, kindness and patience will go a long way towards making them feel cared for.

What did you learn?

Write a post in your journal about your experiences during this exercise. 

What did this workshop teach you about working with seniors with Alzheimer's and dementia?

What most surprised you about feelings of isolation or sensory overload? 

What can you do to help seniors in these situations feel more comfortable in the future?