Here's How Putting on a Show is Working to Improve Life for Kentucky Nursing Home Residents July 9, 2019 10:25

The Story of Peter Pan Comes to Kentucky Nursing Homes

Nurse Nicole Gordon works with a performer in "Wendy's Neverland", at Sunrise Manor Nursing Home. 

The dance is for Wendy’s Neverland, a play with characters and ideas from the story of Peter Pan nearly two years in the making.

Cast and crew call this number “the wheelchair ballet.” For Jeff, a Chicago-based artist, choreographing this was a no-brainer.

Most of the residents are using a wheelchair at some point of the day — you know, even if they can walk — so let’s make that a dance,” he said.

TimeSlips' founder Anne Basting at the performance of "Wendy's Neverland" at Lee County Care and Rehabilitation Center in Beattyville.
Credit Elizabeth Kramer

There’s clamor daily when the staff members clear the dining room, and the music attracts onlookers. Sometimes the dance gains newcomers, according to Sonya Turner, Sunrise Manor’s quality of life director.

“One of our elders, she would come and watch, but yesterday she said I don't want to watch anymore. I want to be in the wheelchair ballet. I want to dance.”

Since early 2018, staff members and artists have led residents to create art and poetry that line the nursing home walls. They’ve led music sessions. There were no lines to memorize. The team worked with elders and staff to create their costumes.

Participants now include family members, and teen and adult musicians from Larue and Hardin counties and beyond.

This production mirrors others staged at homes in Beattyville and Morgantown. All were financed through a $700,000 grant from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services collected from penalties levied on nursing homes and similar facilities.

Signature Heathcare’s Quality of Life Director Angie McAllister brought this initiative to the company.

“A lot of people bring the arts to kids and they forget elders, and the need for their personal expression and how that need grows. And to help facilitate a gain for them is a powerful move,” McAllister said.