Wouldn’t you love to be able to enrich the lives of your memory care residents AND help their friends, family and other volunteers connect with them in a fun and creative way? Recently we came across an art program that can be easily implemented in your assisted living and memory care communities. Training is available, and if you live in Ohio, funding may also be available.
The premise of Opening Minds through Art (OMA) is simple: People with dementia (artists) are paired with volunteers (students, families, caregivers) who are trained to rely on imagination instead of memory and focus on remaining strengths, instead of lost skills. OMA enables people with dementia to take on new roles as artists and teachers and leave a legacy of beautiful artwork. It’s a failure-free program that provides opportunities for creative self-expression and social engagement for people with dementia.
How it Works:
The artists are paired with volunteers that assist and encourage them through a weekly program that runs for about 3 months. Artists and volunteers alike benefit from the weekly activities. In some classes, University students, who are in gerontology-related programs, participate as volunteers to become more personally acquainted with the real-world experience of adults with dementia. Adult children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors and others can also volunteer.
Erin Svendsen is with the Springfield Art Association, which has been hosting classes. She says she’s witnessed the building of self-confidence in the resident-artists.
Research shows that the program improves the quality of life for people with dementia and positively impacts volunteers’ attitudes toward aging. Volunteers develop a deep appreciation for the friendship and even kinship they come to feel with their elder partners. It is this sense of kinship that reduces the social distance between the generations caused by the public fear of Alzheimer’s and other kinds of dementia.
Greg Kyrouac is with the SIU School of Medicine, helping to oversee one of the programs in Illinois. He shares, “We all want to make our own decisions. That’s what a part of our humanity is. But for the art program, we don’t overwhelm them with choices.” Focusing on abstract art helps too. “There’s no right or wrong way to do the art that they’re doing.”
Are you interested in starting a program in your care community?
Learn more about OMA through the links below:
- Sign up for OMA training and learn how to be an OMA facilitator online or on-site.
- Do you work at a nursing home in Ohio that needs OMA? There may be funding available.
Information for this article was obtained from the following sources:
- NPR Illinois – Art Program for Those with Dementia Opens Minds and Hearts, Author: Rachel Otwell
- Opening Minds Through Art – Scripps Gerontology Center – Miami University (Ohio)
- Springfield Art Association (SAA) – Visual Art Center
- Opening Minds Through Art – Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Center of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders