A recent news report reveals that elders with dementia may still retain their creativity, and express it in different forms. The report discussed the creative exploits of one Sherry S, a 90+ sociologist with dementia. Sherry’s imaginative prose took a community writing workshop in Albuquerque by surprise as she presented her impressive story about an artistic turtle named Homer, who amongst other things, is a writer himself and has written a book on ‘turtle senior living’! If that sounds interesting to you, pause and think about how dementia patients have the potential to maintain their creative side despite short-term memory loss and other symptoms of the condition.
Art programs for people with dementia
Skill-building and creative expressions can be witnessed even in people living with dementia, says Center on Age and Community director at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Anne Basting. She says that dementia is viewed as a condition where there is no scope for learning or skill development, but this is not true. The National Center’s Executive Director Gay Hanna adds that human beings have a great capacity for learning, and more so when it comes to creative and imaginative pursuits. As thousands of baby boomers race towards old age, there is a need for programs that can give more meaning to a senior’s life and lessen the strain on family caregivers.
Benefits of encouraging dementia patients to express themselves creatively
Painting, writing and music all offer their own benefits to people dealing with dementia. For example, writing allows them to delve into their own metaphorical world when communicating in traditional language becomes challenging. The result – a different look at the world and creative expression of thoughts and ideas. Basting says there is a curiosity to know if it can improve cognitive functioning, but this expectation is invalid. What it can do for people living with dementia is: (a) improve well-being, (b) create a sense of belonging, and (c) promote a sense of community that removes isolation and improves quality of life.
Positive response from the community
Arts programs oriented to seniors are much sought after, says Basting, citing the many inquiries she has received from diverse community groups about the same. From Alabama firefighters to museum education programs, the response from the community is positive, she concludes. The demand for senior arts programs is expected to remain strong, as the emphasis on expression and growth continues unabated. Carlton Senior Living understands this and has therefore incorporated a ‘Personal Expressions’ program across all its communities, from Pleasant Hill to San Jose, California. Comprising activity programs, it includes arranging events, outings and trips for residents. To ensure that independent seniors lead active and enjoyable lifestyles, Carlton also offers professional entertainment and encourages interaction with pets.