Art: A Reflection of Humanity

Mary StanleyA blog post by PR and Marketing Coordinator, Mary Stanley

While it is always inspiring  to see people participate in the annual Art is for Everyone event, this year it was especially moving and exciting to see people of all ages, abilities, and talent levels work together to create a piece that is both beautiful and a true reflection of the community.

Three years ago, New England Village joined forces with Cardinal Cushing Centers, Friendship Home, and South Shore YMCA to host a fun, art-focused event called Art is for Everyone. The mission of this event is to provide an opportunity to members of the community—those with and without disabilities—to  create pieces of art.

In past years, these events were held at the site of one of the partnering agencies. This year, however, the four agencies decided to try something a bit different—to change the venue of the event and hold it at the Hanover Day celebration, hoping to cast a broader net and share the art projects with even more people from the community. Hanover’s Cultural Council, which organizes this part of Hanover Day, couldn’t have been more welcoming.

In as much as the Art is for Everyone event is a collaborative effort among the four agencies, in the past, the art projects themselves were very much independent of one another, with each agency offering a separate project that people could work on, either collectively or individually.  In fact, New England Village was the only one of the four agencies to offer an integrated project—a single project that all members of the community could contribute to. Inspired by this concept of a community-wide, integrated project, the four agencies decided that this year’s Art is for Everyone project should be an inclusive piece made by the community at large. The planning committee, which included NEV’s Meg Bean, also decided that the completed artwork would be donated to the town of Hanover.  The results  were nothing less than inspiring.

The theme of the project was marine related with an anchor (the emblem for the town of Hanover) serving as the central design element. People from the community had the option of contributing to the artwork by gluing brightly colored bottle caps and buttons onto the anchor or drawing, sketching or designing ocean related graphics in the empty spaces surrounding the anchor.

With a large number of people, young and old, those with and without disabilities, including a number of people served by New England Village, stopping at the table to lend their talents to this piece, Art Director Melanie Rose-Zagwyn says she is inspired by what she saw that day. “At one point, it became an ‘each one teaches one,’ where one person was explaining to another person the concept of the project. It was so comforting to see people who didn’t even know one another working together and helping one another,” she says.

She says she is in awe of the respect and appreciation that people showed for one another’s artwork. “It was wonderful to see people come over to the table and be inspired to add something on to somebody else’s  artwork or create something related to the other graphics already sketched out,” says Melanie.

“If the mission of Art is for Everyone is to create a community-wide project, then we certainly achieved that goal,” Melanie says. “And I’m so glad that the four agencies decided to donate this piece to the town of Hanover; it embraces the behavior of giving back and perpetuates the concept of inclusiveness.”

Remembering the Arts

As research into a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease continues, some in the medical field have discovered what those in the humanities have known for a very long time—that the key to living with this disease and other forms of dementia may be as close as your local art museum.

The impact that the arts have on the aging brain, especially one afflicted with memory issues, is nothing short of incredible. According to the website, aplaceformom.com, “studies show that art therapy can enhance communication, brain function, and social interaction for dementia patients. In fact, visual art can trigger dormant memories and emotions, inspiring conversations among these patients who normally struggle to express themselves. What’s more, when dementia patients create the art themselves, that activity stimulates the whole brain.”

While art is certainly not the silver bullet antidote for Alzheimer’s Disease and other memory issues, there is enough evidence to suggest that it can be tremendously cathartic and therapeutic, giving the patient a brief reprieve from the struggles of dementia—even if for just an hour or so. According to Dr. Daniel C. Potts, founder of Cognitive Dynamics, a company that uses innovative therapy techniques to help those with dementia, “roadblocks to verbal communication laid by dementia are bypassed through the artistic process and individuals can express themselves through the art. Dr. Potts goes on to say that patients who receive art therapy have improved concentration and attention and are often easier to care for after a therapy session.

Based on this understanding of how art therapy affects people with memory loss issues, Memory Cafés have begun popping up throughout the state. These cafés are social gatherings, usually held at a community spot such as a Council on Aging or Assisted Living Facility, where people with memory changes and their caregivers can come together in a safe and supportive environment to socialize and engage with one another. While the main focus of the café is the social component, many typically include an art-related activity, such as a sing-along, poetry reading, or painting. They are free of charge and open to people with memory loss issues and their caregivers.

Because Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia do not discriminate, equally affecting people with intellectual disabilities, New England Village has partnered with the Plymouth Center for Active Living to offer a Memory Café on Thursday, June 30 from 12:30 p.m to 2 p.m. Sponsored by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services, this Memory Café will include musical entertainment by the multi-talented Dave Becker who will be playing music from all of the eras. For more information, visit Newenglandvillage.org or contact Ginger Comeau at 781-293-5461, ext. 204.

The Long …and Lonely…Good-bye

Mary StanleyA blog post by PR and Marketing Coordinator, Mary Stanley
It’s called the long good-bye, perhaps because little by little, day by day, over the span of many years, Alzheimer’s Disease robs its victims of their memories, abilities, and eventually their own identities. All of the routine tasks they once performed, from brushing their teeth to dressing themselves to lifelong hobbies, are now too complicated to complete alone; the patients require the assistance of a caregiver and most often, that caregiver is a spouse. As the disease progresses, communication becomes difficult, making it challenging to maintain friendships and socialize. Even relationships between spouses can become tricky with the absence of the normal conversations they once enjoyed. Given all of these challenges, it’s not unusual for the patient and the caregiver to become isolated.

Fortunately, there is a concept that is giving all people living with memory changes (including  Alzheimer’s patients) and their caregivers a bit of a break from the loneliness of this hardship. Called Memory Cafés, these two-hour social sessions are a place for people with memory loss issues and their caregivers to come together and connect with other people who are living with the same challenges.

Within the walls of these cafés , there is complete compassion and empathy because everyone in the room is dealing with the same struggles. While some of the cafés are focused solely on enjoying refreshments and socializing, others include an entertainment component, usually in the form of poetry, music, or art. What those in the scientific community have learned is that the arts—especially music—can be a strong trigger for memories and have an enormously powerful impact on people who are dealing with memory loss. According to the blog on the website, aplaceformom.com,  “studies show that art therapy gives back to Alzheimer’s patients, in some part, what has been taken away. It stimulates the senses, can trigger dormant memories and encourages conversation.”

Typically, Memory Cafés will also include an activity portion related to art; everyone in the room, patients and caregivers alike, are invited to participate in the activity and it is not unusual for the room to fill with the sound of laughter, singing, and people connecting with one another. Dr. Daniel C. Potts, founder of Cognitive Dynamics, an organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for those with cognitive impairment and their caregivers, says, “through the process of art therapy, relationships are built, empathy fostered, anxiety lessened, and a sense of mastery or control over their environment is developed. It’s a matter of discovering new ways to express yourself and communicate.”

Because Alzheimer’s Disease does not discriminate—affecting all segments of the population, including, and especially, those with intellectual disabilities—New England Village is partnering with the Plymouth Center for  Active Living (formerly the Plymouth Council on Aging) to hold a Memory Café on June 30. The entertainment portion of this café will feature music by the multi-talented musician Dave Becker as he plays the saxophone, keyboard, and guitar. Attendees at the café are invited to listen, sing along and dance to the tunes from a variety of eras.

While Memory cafés certainly can’t cure Alzheimer’s Disease, they do provide a two to three hour break from the isolation that the disease causes; these cafés can be hugely cathartic, for both patient and caregiver. They may even provoke some laughter, and, as they say, that is always the best medicine.

Siblings and Family the Foundation for All Other Relationships

mike_gaffey_blogA Blog Post by Assistant Residential Director Michael Gaffey

With Siblings Day approaching in our Village calendar, I’ve been asked to reflect upon the significance of siblings and family.  I find myself hard pressed to begin. Such a simple concept; such a difficult concept to express simply!

We are all of us, in our own ways, directly and deeply formed through our relationships with each other. Our families are, for many of us, the Continue reading

A Magical Adventure

MollyA Blog Post by NEV Resident Molly Houston

On Monday, March 14th, I left with Ashley to head to Logan Airport for our trip to Disney to celebrate my 30th birthday. I barely slept the night before I was so excited. Fred drove us to the airport and we flew down to Orlando; we were able to watch TV on the plane which made the flight a lot easier. When we got off the plane, the Disney Magical Express took us to the hotel we were staying at (Pop Century Resort). It was hot in Florida, so we changed into shorts and went right to the Continue reading

“Community” Theater

Ginger Comeau, Director of Enrichment and Community ServicesBy Ginger Comeau, Director of Enrichment and Community Services

Once upon a time a girl named Dorothy Gale wished more than anything to fly over the rainbow in hopes of finding a place far from home where there weren’t any troubles.  She was sure it would be a magical place full of happiness and wonder, a place where her dreams could come true. On Friday, February 26, a crowd of more than 300 people were carried over that rainbow as New England Village presented a musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. Continue reading

The fire is stoked…

Ginger SullivanA blog post by Ginger Sullivan, Director of Residential Services

On January 27th, I joined other New England Village (NEV) staff and supporters at a celebratory kick-off for NEV’s 2016-2018 Strategic Plan. With our road map in hand, we now have a clear focus on priorities and strategic initiatives to move us along. With pleasure, I have been appointed as the leader for Priority One: Person Centered Planning.

Person centered thinking asks us to examine how we think about and plan for the future Continue reading

Fulfilling my Dreams

Joy BendrorA Blog post by NEV resident Joy Bendror

Program Manager Ashley Gunville sat down with each woman in her program and had them put together a list of all the dreams they wanted to fulfill and life experiences they wanted to encounter. Attending a Zac Brown Band concert and meeting Zac were two of the items on Joy’s list. The following post is Joy’s description of the night. Continue reading