Featured Speakers

Featured Speakers


Anne Basting, Ph.D., is Professor of Theatre at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Her work focuses on the potential for the arts and humanities to improve our quality of life as communities and individuals. For over 20 years, Basting has developed and researched methods for embedding the arts into long-term care, with a particular focus on people living with different cognitive abilities. Basting is author of numerous articles and three books, Forget Memory: Creating better lives for people with dementia (2009) and The Stages of Age: Performing Age in Contemporary American Culture. Named a 2016 MacArthur Fellow, Basting is also the recipient of an Ashoka Fellowship, a Rockefeller Fellowship, a Brookdale National Fellowship, and numerous major grants, including the MAP Fund and NEA Artworks. She is author and/or producer of nearly a dozen plays and public performances, including Slightly Bigger Women (2015) and Finding Penelope (2011), a play inspired by a year of intergenerational conversations about the myth of Penelope from Homer’s Odyssey, and professionally staged at a long term care facility. Her latest book — The Penelope Project: An Arts-based Odyssey to Change Elder-care (University of Iowa Press, 2016) co-edited with Maureen Towey and Ellie Rose — tells the story of that remarkable collaboration.


Sarah Rowan, MA Ed, whispers into the hearts of everyone she meets. She travels extensively across the U.S., sharing her personal experience as a care partner to her late husband Joseph, who lived with Alzheimer’s disease. Her presentations blend experience, wisdom, and spirituality to present a message of caring, hope, and personal growth. She is a champion for person-directed care, reaching thousands of people each year. A true educator, Sarah will tell you that she “sees the world as her classroom.” Not only is she a powerfully inspiring speaker and advocate for people living with dementia (both in nursing homes and the larger community), but she is an earnest listener, always asking questions in an effort to know each person she meets better. In this way, she models for each of us the crux of effective person-directed care: the power of being deeply-known.


As Co-Founder of The Eden Alternative®, Jude is known to thousands as the heart and soul of the Eden Alternative movement. Jude has long demonstrated a talent for helping people and organizations align themselves with their core values and beliefs. As a founding member of the Eden Alternative Board of Directors, and dedicated convener of important gatherings and conversations, she continues to mentor, teach, encourage and inspire the forces of change. Jude is also a successful artist and the proud and devoted mother of five fine children.


Karen and Mondy met in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as actors and improv comedians. Karen’s dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and reading all she could about living with dementia, Karen saw the improv/Alzheimer’s connection. Karen and Mondy perform all over the U.S. and Canada in Sometimes Ya Gotta Laugh, their 2-person show about Alzheimer’s disease, caregiving and the necessity of keeping your sense of humor. Their non-profit, In the Moment, will also soon feature a free, online, family care portal (beinginthemoment.org). Karen is also the co-developer of CMS’ Hand in Hand: A Training Series for Nursing Homes.


Sonya Barsness is a Revisionary Gerontologist and consultant whose work begins with the lived experience of people growing older and growing with dementia. She brings these perspectives to life so that education, research, policy, and practice truly reflect what is important to Elders, people living with dementia, and those who care for them. You can learn more about Sonya at www.sbcgerontology.com, or through her blog, Being Heard at www.beingheard.blog. Her newest project, Being Seen, creates a place where people can be seen as we grow older.