Life Is A Stage
And at Eden Registry Member, The Canterbury Care & Rehab Center in Cedar Grove, NJ, all the Elders truly are players.
Therapeutic activity director, Ricardo Pena has created an awesome, full-scale theater company with the residents there. Tim Mullaney over at McKnight’s happens to know Pena and wrote a brilliant description.
When I first heard about Pena’s program, its scale surprised me. This is not a drama club that rehearses in the cafeteria and then puts on some skits in the lounge — nothing wrong with that, but I was excited to learn that Canterbury residents perform entire shows that demand a lot from performers, such as “West Side Story.” And they sometimes put up their productions in a 600-seat arts center at Bloomfield College, inviting 20 area nursing homes to attend.
Needless to say, Pena is a talented logistical coordinator. He adapts each rented or donated performance space by installing ramps, since about 90% of the performers are in wheelchairs.
“We modify everything for their capability and adhere to codes, make sure they’re comfortable on and off stage,” he told me.
Pena and his performers also modify the material itself, as part of a long, six- to seven-month rehearsal process. Choreography is devised for performers who use wheelchairs, walkers and canes. The cast has group sessions to tweak the script. And the shows incorporate an element of improvisation, because some cast members live with dementia.
Pena shared the story of Artie, an actor living with dementia. He could not memorize lines, but if Pena told Artie what the scene was about right before he went on stage, Artie could ad-lib and keep the story flowing perfectly.
This sort of large-scale engagement is the kind of thing you can expect from Registry Members. The Canterbury is a part of the Windsor Healthcare Communities. Windsor is actively working to bring more of its organizations on the Registry. The Canterbury has embraced principles that have helped it to adapt, creating something amazing with the Elders.
By making them the focus, Canterbury has been able to help the Elders thrive. Perhaps Pena summed it up perfectly, “Empower the residents. They can do it. No matter the age. People say there are boundaries, and there are not. Whatever your age, whatever state of mind you’re in, you can do it. No matter what.”