HATS stands for Health Action Theatre for Seniors, aptly named for the health education
benefits this action theatre brings to all participants. By participating in the performance,
whether as actors or audience, seniors gain awareness of complex health and social issues and
are empowered to act and deal with those challenges.
The HATS process involves these steps:
The role-playing and the discussion together form a dynamic and powerful learning
experience for both actors and audience. All participants, regardless of their culture,
language and literacy level, benefits from the exercise.
- A small group of volunteer actors act out a short scene (in mime format) to
illustrate an issue. For example, in the play called Grandmother's Life, they perform a play that
highlights the isolation and neglect of older persons. Grandmother is depicted
preparing meals for the family, cleaning and babysitting, left alone for extended
periods, and coerced into handing over her pension cheque to a son or daughter.
- After the performance, a narrator encourages discussion and the audience is invited to
change the outcome of the scene by either replacing the actors or suggesting ways
for the actors to act or react to the other players.
The HATS program has proven effective in reaching St. Christopher's senior immigrant
communities. In fact, the program came to life from the merging of two organizations:
one serving immigrants as a community, and the other serving seniors. The St.
Christopher HATS program is currently aimed at Portuguese and Vietnamese seniors.