As the saying goes, “Laughter is the best medicine,” and residents at Hebrew SeniorLife’s Orchard Cove senior living community recently received a healthy dose. Close to 40 residents of the continuing care retirement community in Canton participated in an improvisational comedy workshop led recently by comedian Kelly MacFarland from ImprovBoston.
Improvisational comedy, or improv, is performed in an unplanned or unscripted format, created spontaneously by the performers. According to MacFarland, “Improv is for everyone. It’s very accessible, and all you need is the ability to be fully present and in the moment.
“Short-form improv is just playing games like you would when you were a kid,” explained MacFarland. “If you’re asked a question, don’t overthink it – just say the first thing that comes to your mind, and allow yourself to answer genuinely and authentically. The Orchard Cove folks were willing to be open and silly, which is such a big piece of the improv puzzle.”
Orchard Cove resident Rudy Salinger, who stepped up as a performer during the workshop, described the experience this way: “I had a little trepidation about standing in front of a group to try to do improv, but since I feel we are all a group of friends here at Orchard Cove, I felt at home enough to give it a try. So glad I did, it was a blast! I think we all felt that way.”
The workshop was so successful that Orchard Cove Program Director Susan Tovsky plans to expand it into a weekly four-part series this coming August, which MacFarland will also lead. “Comedy is good on so many levels, and improv compels participants to think on their feet,” said Tovsky. “The way Kelly worked with the residents was magical.”
MacFarland would agree that the experience was indeed magical.
At the end of the last game instead of just stopping, the participants began to sing. “It was an authentic, organic moment where they didn’t have anything else to say, so they went to song and others joined in because that’s the true spirit of improv,” said MacFarland. “It’s just going with what you’ve been offered and saying yes. I can guarantee that we’ll be doing singing games when I’m back.”
Few would debate that the world could certainly use some healing laughter right now. “The more we laugh together, the more we come together,” said MacFarland.
But perhaps Orchard Cove resident Nancy Nelson summed up the benefit of improv best when she said, “Improv was a totally new experience for me. It just goes to show that we’re never too old to try new experiences. And hearty laughter does so much for the soul!”
The improv workshop is just one example of the dynamic daily programs available at Orchard Cove that make each day an opportunity to learn and grow. Orchard Cove offers a variety of senior living options as well as onsite Harvard Medical School-affiliate health care.
To learn more, visit orchard-cove.org.