It’s not every day that you get free popcorn at the movies, but for some seniors with Alzheimer’s from Asbury Heights, The Baptist Homes Society and Concordia Lutheran Services, Thursday included snacks, drinks and a chance to watch iconic (and sometimes emotional) movie scenes together. “Meet Me At the Movies,” hosted by the Mt. Lebanon Library and organized by the Denis Theatre Foundation and Artists for Alzheimer’s Foundation, aims to create discussion and jog memories of seniors, as well as give them a forum to voice opinions, all while enjoying some of their favorite movie scenes from their youth.
Sean Caulfield, ARTZ’s creative director says the program is “a way to help, in a small way, to restore some dignity” to those suffering from dementia and related diseases. Instead of being told how to do something or given directions, seniors are asked for their opinions on the movie clips and how the songs and scenes made them feel. Similar programs in Boston, Seattle and New York City are held in renovated, old-time theaters to create an experience that “isn’t just the film, but all the things around it,” says Caulfield. The Denis Theatre Foundation hopes to eventually host the program in the currently out-of-use Denis Theatre in Uptown Mt. Lebanon.
As Gene Kelly danced across the projector screen, singing in the rain, of course, a few seniors bobbed back and forth to the music and added their voices to the chorus. During the proceeding discussion, a lady in a head-to-toe flowered pants suit and perfectly bobbed grey hair spoke clearly. Watching the video clip made her feel “naturally happy.” Other grey heads nodded in agreement. The program also included short clips of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I Love Lucy and The King’s Speech, among others. In between clips, Caulfield has the group in laughter with light-hearted and sarcastic jokes. It’s clear this cause is not only close to his heart, but comes naturally to him. And as seniors sip on their drinks through white-and-red striped straws, the lights go down and the next clip rolls on.
If interested, you can read more about the Denis Theatre Foundation and the ARTZ Artists for Alzheimer’s/I’m Still Here Foundation online.