3 seniors performing
Westminster Place residents Dave, Marcy and Gloria participate in an improv class. (Photo courtesy of Westminster Place)

Residents of Westminster Place, a Presbyterian Homes life plan community in Evanston, IL, are learning improvisational comedy while strengthening their memories.

Teri McEvoy, a 20-year acting veteran who trained with The Second City, teaches a class at the community every Thursday. Westminster Place says that the activity is popular for socialization but that it’s the laughter that keeps residents coming back.

“I tell women not to wear mascara to the classes because it will come off after laughing so hard you cry!” said McEvoy, who was inspired to teach older adults when her mother was undergoing chemotherapy and she became aware of the importance of socialization opportunities.

Teri Elvoy, standing, teaches improv to residents of Westminster Place. (Photo courtesy of Westminster Place)

Resident Ann Whitney, 90, attends each week and has an interesting connection to McEvoy, according to Westminster Place. Both women were in the 1990 movie “Home Alone,” which was filmed in Chicago.

In addition to former actors such as Whitney participating in the class, also enjoying it are residents who are former physicians, lawyers, business people, and even a priest. 

The classes at Westminster Place consist of warm-up exercises, dramatic readings, compound-word exercises, improv games and scenarios, teaching dialogue and memory games specifically designed to benefit older adults.

“It really does help to laugh,” said McEvoy, who said she loves watching the friendships, and even some romantic relationships, that have formed. “We all benefit from the medicine that is laughter. [The c]lass is a nice escape.”

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