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Rinat Feniger-Schaal & Shoshi Keisari

Let’s play together: Playing the mirror game with older adults

As life expectancy increases, there is an effort finding novel ways for improving the quality-of-life and cognitive performance of older-adults. Studies have shown that interpersonal synchrony motion between people positively affects a range of emotional and social functions. In addition, it was found that synchronous motion is related to innate biological mechanisms and plays an important role in the development of social communication and behaviour. In that sense, synchronous motion captures within an embodied memory of initial experiences of interpersonal encounter and relationship with the other.

One of the profound paradigms of synchronized movement is the mirror-game - a common exercise in drama and dance-movement therapy that is based on dyadic synchronized movement, but also involves playfulness and spontaneity. The goal of our study was to examine the effects of the mirror-game on subjective and cognitive indices in late life. Thirty-four older-adults (age: 71-98) participate in a within-participant study design. Participants conducted two 9-minute movement activities: the mirror-game and a control condition - an exercise class. Several measures were taken before and after experimental session: the attention sub-scale of the MoCA-cognitive-assessment-test and a speech in noise detection task, as well as self-reports.

The mirror-game yielded a larger increase in the attention performance as compared to control exercise. It also leads to faster detections of spoken words in noise. The mirror-game’s effectiveness was also indicated by better perceived partner responsiveness, increase in positive and decrease in negative reported emotions. Our preliminary findings suggest that the mirror-game, rather than the physical activity, may have an immediate impact on mood and on some executive functions. Future studies should test further its short- and long-lasting effect on cognitive performance and mood. The mirror-game is a commonly used technique that can be easily integrated into older-adults' daily-routine.

Rinat Feniger-Schaal

Rinat Feniger-Schaal, Ph,D., is a lecturer and a researcher at the school of creative arts therapies and leads the Master’s programme for Dramatherapy at the University of Haifa. She is also a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Child Development. Dr. Feniger Schaal is a registered dramatherapist and holds a master’s in Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology and a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology. Her main research interests are in the areas connecting research and clinical work, focusing mainly on play, drama and movement. Dr. Feniger-Schaal has an extensive clinical experience as a dramatherapist in the public and private practice, specialising in working with people with cognitive impairment and mental health problems.

Recent Publications

Feniger-Schaal, R., Hart Y., Lotan, N., Koren-Karie, N, & Noy, L., (2018), The body speaks: Using the mirror game to link attachment and non-verbal behavior. Frontier in Psychology, 9, 1560

Feniger-Schaal, R. & Orkibi., (2019) Integrative systematic review of dramatherapy. Psychology of the Aesthetic Creativity and Arts.13 p. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/aca0000257

Feniger-Schaal, R., Schoneherr, D., Altmann, U. & Strauss, B (2020). Movement synchrony in the mirror game: A pilot study. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. 16 pages.

Shoshi Keisari

Shoshi Keisari, Ph,D. is a dramatherapist and a scholar in the field of creative arts therapies and clinical gerontology. She is a lecturer and supervisor at Haifa University, Tel Hai Academic College and the Israeli Institute of Psychotherapeutic Playback Theatre. Her doctoral research concentrated on the integration of dramatherapy, playback theatre and life-review with older adults. These days she is doing her post-doc research at the Department of Philosophy, Sociology, Education and Applied Psychology in University of Padua, Italy. She published several papers in the field, lectured and conducted workshops at various conferences in Israel and around the world. A co-author of the book: An Introduction to Psychotherapeutic Playback Theatre: The Hall of Mirrors on Stage.

Recent Publications

Keisari, S., *Feniger-Schaal, R., Palgi, Y., Golland, Y., Gesser-Edelsburg, A., & Ben-David, B. (2020). Synchrony in old age: Playing the mirror game improves cognitive performance. Clinical Gerontologists.

Keisari, S., Palgi, Y., Yaniv, D., & Gesser-Edelsburg, A. (2020). Participation in Life-Review Playback Theatre enhances mental health of community-dwelling older adults: A randomized controlled trial. Psychology of Aesthetics Creativity and the Arts.

Keisari, S., Gesser-Edelsburg, A., Yaniv, D., & Palgi, Y. (2020). Playback theatre in adult day centers: A creative group intervention. Plos One.