Role of Creative Arts in Dementia Care

Agency for Cultural Affairs of Government of Japan and General Association of Japan, Torindo jointly organised an introductory talk via Zoom recently to create public awareness on the role of creative arts in dementia care.

It was held in cooperation with the School of the Arts of Universiti Sains Malaysia and C & S Associates Aged Care Consultancy and Training Malaysia among others.

Attended by over 100, the enlightening session zoomed in on the Totsu-totsu Dance as a new potential approach to dementia care and set to be an Japan-Malaysia collaborative project for dementia in the coming months.

The featured speakers were Japanese dancer/choreographer, Osamu Jareo, Malaysian sound artist/researcher, Dr Kamal Sabran and Malaysian gerontologist and dementia advocate/activist, Dr Cecilia Chan. The discussion was coordinated by Takeshi Toyohira, Director of Torindo.

Takeshi Toyohira

The previous projects of Totsu-totsu Dance began in 2009 in Japan in which Jareo conducted dance workshops for the elderly residents of Graceville Maizuru, a special nursing home for the elderly in Kyoto Prefecture, as well as the facility staff members and local community.

According to Torindo’s website, the word “Totsu-totsu” is named after the Japanese words meaning “faltering” and “unsophisticated”.

Kicking off the Zoom session, Jareo shared some footage of past workshops of Totsu-totsu Dance he conducted virtually in Japan with multiple participants.

Osamu Jareo

“The idea was to have movements which could be done together with the care facility staff members, movements which are very unique to elderly people,” he explained, adding that he will choose movements that come naturally to that person.

Speaking on the vital role of caretakers as part of this project, he stated, “Rather than just simply being an assistant to this exercise, they are like my avatar who is there at the care facility.”

“Previously we were doing this kind of activity face-to-face. Switching online, we noticed that we were getting great reactions from the elderly participants and the caretakers were getting more involved as well,” he recalled.

For the upcoming projects, Kamal, who has been researching the possibility of music therapy for dementia in Malaysia, and Jareo will work with people living with dementia, carepartners and their families living in Malaysia to create a performance work with dance and music.

Dr Kamal Sabran

Cecilia hoped that it will be a launchpad of creating awareness in Malaysia to think outside the box continuously and look beyond the biomedical lens: “We will look at what kind of strategies we can use to tap on the humanness to connect, support and understand people living with dementia. We hope more can come on board and join us, such as the carepartners, medical community and service providers.”

Dr Cecilia Chan

“I hope the carepartners who will participate with the people living with dementia could be like a medium between myself and the people living with dementia. So if I were to extend my palm out towards the screen, then the carepartners will extend their hands towards the people living with dementia to create that physical connection,” Jareo expressed.

“We can start by having some music playing which leads on to some dance movements or to start with dance movements and that segues into music – this is something I hope to discuss further with Kamal,” he suggested.

“My role is to support the movement, the choreography that Jareo will design. We will explore spontaneity as it’s a responsive, two-way communication between us and the people living with dementia and carepartners. I am looking forward to doing it again in the Malaysian context,” Kamal enthused.

“The whole point of the project is to showcase that when dementia progresses further and a person loses the ability to communicate using language, we can tap into creativity to connect with the person no matter what stage of dementia. In addition to Totsu-totsu Dance, there are many types of creative arts as our Japanese colleagues have shared with us like drama, theatre, music, arts, craft and others. I am really excited and thrilled,” Cecilia highlighted.

Up next on the itinerary is an online session specifically for carepartners (participation is limited in number) to be followed by a second online session involving both carepartners and people living with dementia at a later date. A festival is also in the pipeline for December complete with face-to-face activities. More details to be finalised and announced soon.

To learn more, interested readers can submit their inquiries via email ( or visit the following Facebook page:

by Tan Mei Kuan

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