BY: BONNIE SANDLER, BS.W.
Many residences have beautifully equipped art rooms with wonderful works of art decorating the walls. Visitors express disbelief that these creations have been produced by people with little or no background in art who may have cognitive deficiencies.
Choosing an inspiring activity and hoping that it will be of interest to a group of individuals can be hit or miss, but art has a life of its own. Self-expression is personal and unique in any form.
Someone who has never appeared to be artistic might suddenly show a vivid and wondrous amount of artistic talent.
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Walking through art rooms can be like being in any gallery in the city; the themes and talent and differences of style can touch one’s soul.
There is no question that art can provide an extraordinary outlet for Alzheimer’s patients who might have difficulty expressing themselves as speech and understanding deteriorate.
“Even with the loss of memory, the capacity for imagination still has its place,” says Gene Cohen, director of the Centre on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University. He has studied the effect of art on people with Alzheimer’s.
“Art is a wonderful activity that taps into imagination,” he says. “That is one reason there has been increasing attention to art for people with Alzheimer’s.
“Even as memory fades, the imagination has the capacity to be robust.”
Too often I see art rooms with empty chairs. Encourage loved ones to let their creative juices flow and join the activities in the art room.
The only other activity that seems to touch everyone in a special way is music. Art and music should be regular activities in residences, from autonomous seniors to those with cognitive impairment.
More effort needs to given to finding the right activity to tap into their imaginations and abilities.