Participation in Life-Review Playback Theater Enhances Mental Health of Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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Playback theater is a form of improvisational theater that combines artistic expression with an exploration of life stories in a group creative process. The goal of the current study was to examine an integrative intervention for older adults, which includes participation in playback theater in accordance with the life-review method. We examined the effect of the intervention on the positive and negative aspects of mental health among community-dwelling older adults in adult day centers. In a randomized controlled trial, data were collected from 78 participants consisting of older adults in 4 adult day centers (Mage=79.60 years, SD=6.89: range=63–96), randomly assigned to a 12-week playback theater group or care-as-usual group. The participants reported on aspects of mental health and mental illness before, immediately after, and 3 months after the intervention. The results show a significant Time × Group interaction, validating the intervention’s effectiveness for improving positive mental health indices: self-acceptance, personal growth, relationships with others, satisfaction with relationships, current well-being, positive affect, meaning in life, satisfaction with life, and self-esteem as well as depressive symptoms. This improvement remained stable 3 months after the intervention. Our findings confirm that a structured short-term creative group intervention, which integrates life review with playback theater participation, induces a strong and persistent positive psychological effect in community-dwelling older adults. The current study suggests that this type of creative intervention in the community may provide an opportunity for older adults to flourish and experience psychological growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-317
Number of pages16
JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020. American Psychological Association


  • Drama therapy
  • Life crossroads
  • Life review
  • Older adults
  • Playback theater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Applied Psychology


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