One summer afternoon, a group of women was having lunch. Everybody was smiling and chatting, enjoying the conversation and each other’s company…except for one person. Let’s call her Eileen here. Eileen’s Alzheimer’s started a few years ago. Since then, her friends started getting together to have lunch once a month, but now that her dementia has progressed, she seldom engages with the conversations. Something happened that afternoon. When one friend showed a picture of a white tiger, Eileen perked up and her eyes came to life. Suddenly, she started talking about her father, and her friends started taking notes of her story…
white tiger lying down

This is one of the methods to create stories with people with dementia. How does it work? Here is how:

  1. Show pictures.
    The pictures shouldn’t be related to their actual lives. When the picture is of their own house or family and the subjects don’t recognize them, they may feel frustrated. Use random pictures instead.
  2. Ask questions.
    The questions should be open-ended questions, not closed questions.


Closed questions: Are they related? Is he a doctor? How many dogs do you see in the picture?
    • Open questions: What do you see? What are they doing? What are they talking about? Where are they going?

You can create a story with a group of people with or without dementia. In Eileen’s case, her memory was triggered when she mistook the white tiger for a lion, which reminded of her father whose middle name was Lion. But in many cases, people just make up stories, which is totally okay because there is no wrong answer. The key to make it fun is “yes, and.” If you know improvisation, you know that “yes, and” rule of thumb: listening to others, accepting their ideas, and expanding them without limitation.

Freedom of Imagination cover

After all, creating stories is freedom of imagination.

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