In a New-Zealand first, The Selwyn Foundation has entered into an agreement with the pioneering Clown Doctors NZ Charitable Trust to introduce an innovative programme of medical clowning across its residential aged care facilities in Auckland, Hamilton and Whangarei.
Commencing in early March, the programme will involve four hour visits by a Clown Doctors duo to each of Selwyn’s rest home and hospital care facilities on a rotational basis over an initial period of twelve months. The Selwyn Foundation is pioneering the work of this unique diversional therapy programme and is the first provider in New Zealand to engage Clown Doctor services in the residential aged care environment.
The Clown Doctors New Zealand Charitable Trust provides a high quality, professional service in medical clowning. The Clown Doctors are not party clowns, but experienced professional actors, drama teachers, performing artists and musicians. Each practitioner has completed comprehensive medical clowning training in the performing arts, medicine and health science, psychology and gerontology, social science and cultural studies, with the training provided by the International Institute for Medical Clowning at Steinbeis University, Berlin.
Through one-to-one engagement with individuals in a healthcare setting, they use alternate modes of expression, entertaining performances and enhanced communication techniques such as movement, gesturing, gentle touch, mirroring, dance music and rhythm to reduce stress, anxiety and loneliness and enhance the quality of life of those who may need an emotional boost. Their dress is often reminiscent of a specific era in people’s past - they may, for instance, wear clothing from the 1940s - and the only thing that distinguishes them as a clown is their red nose!
The programme supports the Selwyn philosophy of providing spontaneity and, thus, reducing boredom. By interacting with residents in a humorous way, the goal is to offer enabling environments that enhance the residents’ enjoyment of life and self-image, whilst at the same time offering compassionate, respectful and person-centred empathy.
The agreement with The Selwyn Foundation builds on a successful pilot Clown Doctors programme that took place at Selwyn Village (Point Chevalier, Auckland) in 2015.
The Foundation’s CEO, Garry Smith, says: ‘Feedback from our residents and staff alike indicated that residents very much responded to the Clown Doctors, opening up and talking about their life experiences and joining in the banter and general camaraderie.'
‘But the visits are not just an entertainment activity - there are considerable therapeutic benefits to be gained. International research has proven the positive effects that humour and laughter have on health and the immune system, and the Clown Doctors’ positivity and spontaneous approach definitely lift people’s spirits.’