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.

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