Arts, Culture, and Museums TIG Week: Arts Evaluation and Engaging with Elders with Memory Loss by Angela Fingard and Daima Machang’u

Hi! We are Angela Fingard and Daima Machang’u. Angela serves as the Managing Director of People & Programs for TimeSlips Creative Storytelling, Inc specializing in building meaningful engagement with older adults through creative communication. Daima is a licensed physician and Fulbright Scholar at Georgia State University pursuing a Masters of Public Health. He is interested in creatively engaging communities with best-practice public health programs and evaluation, and works as a graduate researcher with Performance Hypothesis, LLC.

As everyone can potentially become a caregiver for a loved-one in their life, it’s important to understand what are compassionate and effective ways to provide this care. For over twenty-five years, TimeSlips has brought meaning and purpose into the lives of older adults through the art of creative engagement. As part of this mission, TimeSlips has developed a range of resources that invite caregivers to shift from the expectation of memory to the freedom of imagination.

TimeSlips trained caregivers regularly express the positive impact the approach has on their ability to provide care. They report having the experiences of deep connection, joy, and have ultimately found a transformation in their relationships with the elders. However, the creative engagements we developed simply were unable to map to medical evaluation models of “improving symptoms of dementia.”

In an article by TimeSlips founder Anne Basting and Kate de Medeiros, they discussed how the impact of a creative intervention is in fact measurable, however, medical models are not appropriate measurements of this experience. Building on 25+ years of programming as well as 900+ certified trainers, TimeSlips drew from a body of literature and articulated three core indicators for the organization: connectedness, meaning, and joy. We then closely collaborated with arts & health evaluators from Performance Hypothesis to expand these indicators into a formal evaluation tool, which could approximate the measurable impacts of creative engagement with elders. Through several focus groups, a literature review that drew from publications that scaled quality of life and social isolation, as well as a few rounds of testing among 24 users — TimeSlips will soon be implementing this impact assessment tool with its facilitators across several countries.

Lessons Learned

For many years, TimeSlips was unable to meet the needs often required of traditional research, which imposed measurements that simply could not be captured among people living with memory loss. Ultimately, even if traditional measurements were able to be gathered, they were often not sensitive enough to capture the impact TimeSlips was having. Our hope is that the impact assessment tool will be able to provide the organization with new information that can continually improve our programs and provide hard evidence for joyful moments, such as this quote captured from a focus group interviewee:

“People feel validated when they feel they are able to contribute and are there to serve a purpose and see the end result….”

Rad Resources

To support the growing community of friends and family caregivers, TimeSlips developed a free 45-minute online training module that introduces TimeSlips’ core principles and demonstrates simple ways to weave creativity into our daily lives to create meaningful moments of connection with loved ones. Additionally there are materials to host your own TimeSlips “Engagement Party”. These are joyful gatherings created with and designed for family caregivers (but fun for anyone). At an Engagement Party, guests learn simple techniques to improve communication and creatively engage with those living with memory loss. We welcome you to be part of a larger team of caregivers that strive for a more purpose-driven, connected, and meaningful interaction with elders. The Friends and Family online training and resources to host a TimeSlips Engagement Party can be accessed for free at www.timeslips.org.


The American Evaluation Association is hosting Arts, Culture, and Museums (ACM) TIG Week. The contributions all week come from ACA TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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