Medical Clowning brings joy and laughter to elderly in Christchurch

Clown Doctors NZ have begun their fourteenth eldercare programme ‘Young at Heart & Spirit’.
Clown Doctors’ founder and CEO, Professor Thomas Petschner, says: “We are very proud to have the opportunity to bring this healthy ageing programme to the WINDSORCARE hospital and care facility. Each Clown Doctor is trained to understand the complex physical and mental health needs of older people, and to help seniors cope with changes in their physical and mental abilities, dementia or depression. “Working in conjunction with care staff, they endeavour to achieve a range of positive effects for residents. These include increasing overall wellbeing, reducing any feelings of loneliness, helplessness, boredom or stress, helping them through any difficult or emotional times and, generally, providing a fun environment for all.”
Clown Doctors engage with individuals through alternate modes of expression and communication, gentle touch, movement, gesturing, mirroring, dance music and rhythm thereby reducing loneliness and
providing an opportunity for play and pontaneity. They are trained through a programme provided by the International Institute for Medical Clowning at Steinbeis University Berlin. There are currently 26 trained Clown Doctors in New Zealand: eight in Christchurch, 10 in Auckland and eight in Wellington. “Their dress is non traditional, not intimidating and often of an era which is familiar to the residents,” says Clown Doctors Programme Director, Rita Noetzel. “They may, for instance, wear clothing from the 40s and the only thing that distinguishes them as a clown doctor is their little red nose – the smallest mask in the world!” WINDSORCARE General Manager, Warren Smith observed the clown doctors’ pilot visits and says “Each visit unfolds differently, evolving from the circumstances of the moment and the needs, interests and abilities of each individual. Visits can be tailored to an individual who is in particular need for any reason at any given time.”