All you need is faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust.

There has been more fairy dust than usual in the Kentucky air these past few weeks.

I had the chance to attend a performance of Wendy’s Neverland, the brainchild of Angie McAllister, award-winning elder-care professional and Anne Basting, an award-winning artist, scholar and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow. More like a journey than a play, Wendy’s Neverland, brought interactive storytelling to the forefront and encouraged bystanders to join in on the action.

While I would like to tell you I navigated the typical directions to Neverland–follow the second star to the right and straight on til morning, my route looked a bit more familiar. A flight from Boston and a 2.5 hour drive finally led me to my destination, Lee County Care & Rehabilitation Center in Beattyville, KY, one of 12 locations participating in this project.

The performance consisted of live musicians and dancers, elaborate decorations in each room and compelling acting across all sets. The play evoked familiar feelings, such as the joys of childhood happiness (even after we’ve grown up) from the unmistakable “tick-tock” of Peter and Captain Hook’s common foe, Tik-Tok.

“Wendy’s Neverland is a perfect example of how transformative bringing the arts into healthcare spaces can be,” said McAllister. “We have seen both Elders and Staff come alive with renewed energy and creativity”

A unique aspect of this retelling involved the entire community and exemplified one of the oldest traditions as humans we know, sharing our stories. Guests were asked to listen to letters written to Wendy from a resident’s perspective, inviting them to pause for reflection. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after hearing some of the letters, including my own.

Enhancing the Experience with Eversound

I’m grateful to say that Eversound was able to play a small part in the experience. Aligning with Signature & TimeSlips, Eversound is dedicated to improving the lives of our elders by enhancing experiences for residents in all levels of care through our proprietary engagement amplifier.

Eversound’s ability to facilitate effective communication allowed for audience members to truly hear the letters being read by residents. By helping to alleviate the background noise, audience members were able to hear each story clearly and confidently.

“Eversound has played a key role in the development of one of the most critical scenes in the performance,” said McAllister. “The use of the headphone technology has enabled audience members to have an intimate experience with the Elder’s voices that might not have been possible otherwise”

Redefining Engagement

I’ve been in hundreds, if not thousands of communities by now, and have yet to experience a combined shared happiness like this before. The power of engagement is timeless and one of just many tactics we can use to improve lives and empower communities.

A particular part of this performance that made it exceptional was that the experience was not passive, everyone was involved in creating the journey. Staff, residents, volunteers, guests and the community alike all became integral parts of the story. Neverland is not just for Wendy and Peter anymore, but for any who follow their star to some special places throughout Kentucky.

As we continue to look for opportunities on how we can engage our elders and communities, I encourage you to look to Wendy’s Neverland. The future of senior living is hopeful and with more innovative strategies to combat healthy aging, we are moving ever closer towards a future we are proud to have built together. In the words of James Matthew Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, “When there’s a smile in your heart, there’s no better time to start.”

About Wendy’s Neverland
Basting and McAllister currently lead a team of regional and national artists, staff and elders in a bold reimagining of the story of Peter Pan at 12 Signature HealthCARE nursing homes across rural Kentucky. The project will culminate with professionally-produced, original plays in three of the 12 homes.

The I Won’t Grow Up Project emerged as a collaboration between Signature HealthCARE and TimeSlips, a non-profit whose mission is to bring meaning and joy into late life; and made possible with funding by a Civil Money Penalty (CMP) Grant through the Kentucky Office of Inspector General and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS); and Art Works, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information or showtimes, please visit here.