Olivier-Hugues Terreault

Ashoka Fellow
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Fellow Since 2014


This profile was prepared when Olivier-Hugues Terreault was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
The growth of the elderly population is a global trend. However, families, civil society, and the government in Brazil are particularly ill-equipped to deal with this increase. To address the issue, Olivier-Hugues Terreault is preparing caregivers with the skills to better handle and care for seniors and is working with institutions to design inclusive policies that better address their needs. In Canada, he has successfully developed psychosocial programs in hospitals and elder homes to equip seniors with resilience and a offer a sense of belonging in those environments where they feel out of place, stressed, and anxious. Now, Olivier is spreading these techniques, based on a unique clowning therapy, to Brazil.

Clowning as a form of therapy is a fairly standard tool in pediatric care; however, Olivier’s technique for the elderly goes beyond mere entertainment for the patient. Through projects in both Canada and Brazil, Olivier has developed a method that builds the emotional well-being of the elderly. The clown, who is trained in relationship building, is able to connect with the patient without the usual social filters of health, social status, or age. Hyper-attuned to the actions and mood of the patient, the clown shows acceptance of the person and his or her emotions, meeting them where they are. In this way, the clown is able to address negative emotions and problems that are difficult or avoided in typical social interactions. By dealing with these issues in light manner, clowning offers the possibility of confronting sensitive topics in order to find a solution.

Through experiences during these interventions, Olivier’s comprehensive model intends, besides improving an individual’s quality of life, to transform the way society sees and relates to this population. For this, Olivier organizes trainings with families and health professionals who have difficulty dealing with this group. The trainings cover relational skills, empathy, and resilience-building and emphasize a more humane way of caring for the elderly. Based on his vast experiential learning as well as much research, Olivier is now turning to influence public and corporate policies. Not only does he aim to sensitize decision makers and the general population to the needs of the elderly, he also sees a society where they are valued contributors.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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