The following is an excerpt from a recent blog post featured on CLTTails entitled, "The Woman Bettering the Lives of Seniors."
Elizabeth Byland’s passion for working to better the lives of senior members in the community grew from her own personal experiences that took place closer to home. Byland’s dad had several health issues and his cognitive functioning was decreasing year by year. During the last few years of his life Elizabeth’s father lived in a nursing home, where she would visit him, often with feelings of hopelessness.
“I did the only thing I knew how: tried to be funny. I would go and sit with him and tell him about this funny thing that happened in the grocery store, or bring up funny memories from way back when. Every now and again, I’d look over, his eyes wide open, and he’d be smiling from ear to ear! And if I was really lucky, I might even hear him laugh! So, I started telling him more funny stories and on the very special occasion that he was having a “good day” he might just tell me a funny story. While I felt so helpless during those last few years of his life, there was a new connection that I was forming with him through comedy that gave me purpose and even allowed me to accept the situation. “
Five years ago Elizabeth’s father passed away. She remembers reflecting on the passing of her father and asking herself, “Who will I tell these funny stories to now? Who will I go to visit?”
Speaking with her mother shortly after her father passed, Elizabeth asked, “Mom, if you could go back and do anything different with your life what would you do?”
Her mother responded with an answer she wasn’t ready for, “I just wish I would have learned and tried more things… I feel like at some point I just stopped learning. And I feel like I don’t have that many friends. When you get older it’s hard to make new friends.”
Surprised by her mother’s reaction, Byland wondered if her father shared these feelings and if something could have changed her fathers health. She realized that even someone like her very own mother, who lived a full life before retirement, was struggling with transitioning into her retired years, feeling more disconnected than ever. In that moment Byland decided to teach her mother improv and help other senior members of the community who have the same feelings as her parents.
Passion from the people
Elizabeth’s drive to help the senior community also stems from the people she works with.
“The fact of the matter is the senior community is alive and well and has just as much to contribute as the rest of us! The senior community consists of our parents, and their parents, and so on! If you ask me, those are some of the funniest people we all know! Right?! That crazy uncle… that loud grandparent… they drive me to teach this! They are hilarious! They have a voice, and they’re not done learning, or making new friends, and they’re certainly not done living,” says Elizabeth.
View the entire article here: https://clttails.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/the-woman-bettering-the-lives-of-local-seniors-with-laughter/
Elizabeth hails from Cincinnati, OH where she earned her BFA in Acting from Northern Kentucky University. She then moved to Chicago where she trained at Improv Olympic. She then moved to Savannah, Georgia where she attended the Savannah College of Art and Design and earned her MFA in Performing Arts, with an emphasis in Acting. Upon receiving her MFA, she moved to Charlotte, NC where she became founding Director of AOS Improv at Acting Out Studio, co-founder of Queen City Comedy, and co-founder of the Queen City Comedy Experience. She now resides in Richmond, VA where she is a professor in improv at Virginia Commonwealth University, and teaches improv to high school students at SPARC. When she's not teaching, you can find her working as a TV/Film/Commercial actor in shows like Kevin Probably Saves the World; Commercials for Subway, Belk, MTB Heating and Cooling, ESPN, etc