Sep 26, 2011

Storytelling Program Improves Quality of Life

“The revelation and realization that, ‘I can't remember, but I can IMAGINE!’ blessed my mind, heart and soul. I hope I remember that until I can't remember!”

Alzheimer's Reading Room

Anne Basting
We read the bad news about dementia every day: still no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease; the cost of dementia care projected to explode as the Boomers age; the stress of day-to-day caregiving.

In contrast, the TimeSlips Creative Storytelling Project provided some rare good news for people with dementia and their families and caregivers when it launched a new, free and interactive storytelling website.

The launch took place at the annual conference of the National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA).

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Using photos and word prompts to inspire participants’ creativity, TimeSlips provides a fun, low-pressure way for people with dementia to spark their imaginations, connect with one another and with caregivers and family members, and express themselves without worrying about embarrassing memory lapses or “wrong answers.”

Visitors to the new site can sit with a person with dementia and read, create and share stories inspired by hundreds of images and questions in the site’s library of prompts. Or they can work online with family members across the country to write a story together.

“Families wrestling with dementia are commonly consumed with the daily challenges of managing care,” said Anne Basting, PhD, Director of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s Center on Age & Community, during a keynote address at the NADSA conference. “The new website provides a creative and positive way to take time off from focusing on the disease, and instead spend time growing, learning, even playing together. TimeSlips is a joyful experience that opens the power of storytelling to everyone by replacing the concern about memory with an opportunity to enjoy the power of imagination,” Basting added.

Proven in long term care, now available for everyone

The in-person version of TimeSlips has been tested in long-term care settings and was specially designed to foster communication with people with cognitive disabilities like dementia. Since 1998, TimeSlips has trained more than 2,000 professional facilitators. Peer-reviewed research suggests that TimeSlips storytelling activities improve communication and increase the pleasure that people with dementia take in their daily lives. In nursing homes settings, it has led to increases in social engagement between staff and residents.

The new website provides, “an appealing and easy-to-use trigger for families to create together, by listening to each other in fresh new ways,” says Lisa P. Gwyther, MSW, co-author, Living Well After the Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease, 2011.

Further training available

Visitors can use free and without training, although people who plan to use TimeSlips with groups of people with dementia in a variety of care settings are encouraged to get trained. The TimeSlips Creative Storytelling Project also offers individual and organizational certification in the method. and the companion online training have been endorsed by people with dementia and leaders in the fields of aging services, the arts, education and civic engagement. “The revelation and realization that, ‘I can't remember, but I can IMAGINE!’ blessed my mind, heart and soul. I hope I remember that until I can't remember!” said recently diagnosed Dave Sheehan.

About TimeSlips and the website

Since its inception, the TimeSlips Creative Storytelling Project has generated thousands of stories and further spreads its message by sharing the stories publicly through professionally produced plays, art exhibits, books, and now, its new website. was created by Sway Design ( which specializes in creating open source, custom software in web design, web and identity development for large and small companies.

TimeSlips founder and director Anne Basting is the Director of the UWM Center on Age & Community and Associate Professor of Theatre in the Peck School of the Arts. She is the author of Forget Memory: Creating Better Lives for People with Dementia (2009, Johns Hopkins University Press), and, most recently, writer and producer of The Penelope Project ( with Sojourn Theatre and Luther Manor.

The new site was developed with the support of the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation, the Picker Institute, the Extendicare Foundation, the Helen Bader Foundation, and the Retirement Research Foundation.


Strategic Communications & Planning
Elliott Walker, 917-846-6334

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