Madonna and Michelle Obama seem to have little in common. But together, they have awakened American women of a certain age to the allure of tight, toned arms. They've sent the message that those arms and toned, taut bodies may be within reach for other 40-somethings and older.
That message has been helped along by a legion of other celebrities who have passed their 40th birthday, yet remain virtually flab-free. The list includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Ellen Barkin, and Mary Tyler Moore.
"The picture takes place recently in New Bern; you can tell it's recent because it has a 'citified' look. And it's gorgeous; you had to be there -- and will be there. It's in the fall; we can tell because it's darker. It's beautiful and there is a lot of red. The fellow who is on the bicycle is Birdie. Birdie is an artist wearing a new suit -- as honest as he can be. He's on a bicycle riding all across the country, looking for his mom and dad. And one day he'll find them and when he does, they'll hug and kiss. It looks like he might fall into the water; if he does then he'll drown. One time, he fell and he had to go to the hospital, and we said, 'My Birdie lies under the ocean.'"
At this point in the tale, one storyteller breaks into the song; one by one the others follow suit.
The story -- reminiscent of something "theater of the absurd" playwright Eugene Ionesco might have written -- was created by six or seven residents of the Bremen Jewish Home in Atlanta who are moderately impaired by Alzheimer's disease. They were helped along by Anne Basting, a fellow at the Brookdale Center on Aging at Hunter College in New York City and the project director of Time Slips.
Using a technique she pioneered, Basting leads -- and trains others to lead -- storytelling workshops for people with Alzheimer's and related dementias. The premise behind Time Slips is that creative storytelling helps open communication with -- and foster an understanding of -- people with Alzheimer's disease.
"I started out as a scholar, getting a doctorate in theater and doing research on older performing groups; separately, I had done some volunteer work with people with Alzheimer's," says Basting. "The older performers all talked about how their lives are transformed by this opportunity to perform: they get to become something new at a time in their lives when they didn't think that was possible. And I started wondering if that was possible with people with dementia, because so clearly the only role they can play is 'sick person.'"