Dementia Hero – “Listen with your eyes”, says Tiina Alinen

SANDBAG and Tiina Alinen Projects have secured Brisbane City Council funding to bring an inclusive wellbeing dance programme to Sandgate to run throughout 2019. Tiina is a local resident with thirty-five years professional dance experience across education, community and health contexts. She has worked in Australia and internationally as an educator and believes her expertise lies in facilitating dance as a tool for inclusion.
“Wellbeing dance engages and empowers people through communication of a different kind”, says Tiina. “I encourage participants and facilitators to ‘listen with their eyes’. By improvising with touch, music and tactile materials, such as balloons, scarves and pebbles, participants enjoy wellbeing dance that is inclusive and enormous fun”.
Classes are two hours in duration and begin with participants connecting with each other. Structured time periods include Warm-Up, where moderate movement occurs, Nourishment; a cuppa and nibbles, Theme, and Closure. The theme may include props as varied as pebbles, a tennis racket and chocolate cake.
“The highlight of my facilitating communication through dance has been collaborating with Christine Bryden to create Dementia Hero”, says Tiina.
Christine was diagnosed with dementia at age 46. She and Tiina worked together to create a dementia friendly wellbeing dance programme for Dementia Australia in 2014.
Over twenty years after diagnosis, Christine is still teaching that dementia is a change in the way the affected person experiences the world and relates to it. Christine has said that when language recall and the speed at which one might once have spoken are impaired, creative dance can be used as a communication tool, a way to connect.
“Christine Bryden and others are rewriting the dementia book and we need to take notice”, says Tiina. In our workshops people can be freely themselves in the moment, without judgement. That’s empowering”.
People with dementia are often overwhelmed when there is too much sound or activity around them, so classes are small – never more than twelve participants; six who are affected by dementia and six who accompany their friend or loved one to support them and experience the workshop for themselves.
“The feedback from people with dementia and those who support them regarding the classes has been overwhelming and heartfelt. Seeing eyes come alive when movement ideas are embraced is a joy to watch”, says Tiina.
“We need some serious money behind this model in order to train other trainers so more people with dementia can benefit”.
Enquiries regarding Dementia Hero workshops in 2019 can be made through contacting Deb at Sandbag
Enquiries regarding Dementia Hero Training workshops for allied health practitioners and body aware practitioners can be made through contacting Tiina at

Published in the Sandgate Guide March 2019