Currently, the ageing of the population increasingly requires the development of practices to promote and support the maintenance of the autonomy and health of the elderly.
In 2019, the Accademia Dimitri launched the project ‘Teatro Benessere Anziani. Developing mental health, physical well-being and socio-cultural participation for elderly people through theatre’, coordinated by Demis Quadri and Veronica Provenzale, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Business Administration-DEASS (social and health areas) of SUPSI.
The first objective of the programme was to develop theatrical and artistic practices aimed at supporting the autonomy and wellbeing of the elderly people involved, but also to promote a more appreciative and dynamic image of them, showing the influence that such actions can have for a cultural change in the perception of the elderly. Theatre is a living art of communication and expression: through theatrical activity it is possible to give each participant a listening ear and a voice, to create bonds between people, to seek different and shared points of view, to generate joy and fun. Theatrical and artistic activities are therefore truly effective practices for the development of the psychological health, physical well-being and social participation of individuals of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life – in this case the elderly.
Thanks to the help of all of them, a pilot phase of four theatre workshops was organised, implemented at the integrated day care centres in the Tertianum facilities in Bellinzona and Tenero, at the Centro Sociale Onsernonese in Russo, and at the San Donato Regional Elderly Home in Intragna. During the workshops – led in 2020 by the actor Daniele Bianco (unfortunately interrupted due to the covid-21 pandemic) and then resumed in 2022 with the actresses Anna Kiskanç and Camilla Stanga – the different groups of participants were involved in theatrical exercises and games, moments of imagination and storytelling, and also in the composition of small theatrical scenes, which alternated during the weekly meetings at the respective locations. As confirmed by the feedback from the workshop participants, as well as from the managers and staff of the centres involved, the effects of the workshops were generally very positive and the activities generated real feedback in terms of activation and imagination, as well as involvement and joy, and thus increased well-being.
On the basis of these results, thanks to the skills developed in the project and the involvement of institutions, the Accademia Dimitri is already working on the development of a stable service for the territory, enabling interested organisations and institutions (day care centres, homes for the elderly, etc.) to host theatre workshops to foster the well-being of non-institutionalised elderly people and, to a lesser extent, residents.
Alongside the running of the theatre workshops, thanks to the collaboration with photographer Reza Khatir, the Dimitri Academy has developed a parallel artistic project, aimed not so much at documenting the activities as at providing added value, obtained through the filter of an additional artistic medium such as photography.
From week to week, Reza Khatir followed the theatre activities in the different venues, capturing with his shots the sharing of exercises and movements, creative and playful moments, expressive gestures and flashes of inspiration and hilarity, born during collective practices. At the same time, Khatir focused on the individual participants, highlighting through his portraits the personality, experience and strength of each and every one, eschewing stereotypes and images of the ‘elderly’, to return to the individual in his or her totality and fullness.
The portraits and scenes captured during the workshops are now brought together in four photographic exhibitions, curated by Veronica Provenzale for the Accademia Dimitri and Khatir himself, set up in the four venues where the workshops took place. In addition to testifying to the meeting and sharing that took place during the workshops and encouraging the dissemination and multiplication of the experience, the hope is that these photographic exhibitions can help to promote a more appreciative, true and profound image of older people.
Project manager: Prof. Demis Quadri
Researcher: Veronica Provenzale
Theatre trainers: Daniele Bianco, Anna Kiskanç, Camilla Stanga
The Teatro Benessere Anziani project was realised with the support of the cantonal action programme of Health Promotion Switzerland and the Oertli Foundation, and under the patronage of the Health Promotion and Evaluation Service (SPVS), Pro Senectute and the municipalities involved.