Only connect – the difference an ISTA artist’s work can make

by Martin Kerrison | 1 April 2014

it changes lives, engages the disengaged and frees the marginalised and disenfranchised

The following is a summary of the research paper Playfully engaging people living with dementia: searching for Yum Cha moments by Julie Dunn, Michael Balfour, Wendy Moyle, Marie Cooke, Kirsty Martin, Clark Crystal and Anna Yen; 2013. It has been summarised and edited by Martin Kerrison.

Arts-based strategies to address health and well-being issues are not new but they are increasingly recognised as powerful interventions rather than engaging ways to pass the time. This article looks at the amazing examples of reconnection enabled by two gifted actors. The detail can be found in the report of an Australian pilot study of dramatic interactions with people living with mid-to advanced-stage dementia.

This article, being shorter and less objective, cannot do justice to the full report which is well worth reading to get a fuller picture of the skill and sensitivity of both actors and researchers. Entitled Playfully engaging people living with dementia: searching for Yum Cha moments the study is a story of liberation, reconnection and redemption.


What are the “Yum Cha moments”? Read on and find out.


Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia, is a crippling and disabling illness which can reduce vital and active men and women to helpless, isolated and frightened sufferers.

In the later stages of illness sufferers have little or no knowledge of every-day things such as their address or weather conditions. They may at times confuse their spouses with parents or be uncertain of the identity of close family members.

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