Alzheimer Society – Behind each painting is a story

Masterpiece created by John
Masterpiece created by John

Masterpiece created by John
Masterpiece created by John

Behind each painting is a story

THUNDER BAY – Health – For John, painting helped him commemorate finding true love during his work as a young man on the CP railway.  For Gladys, painting reminded her of the garden she once kept that she was so proud of and the feeling of joy bright flowers gave her. 

In the Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay’s Intergenerational Art Program, each painting symbolizes an important memory, mood, or a moment in time that is reflective of the artist, a person who is living with early stage memory loss.

Masterpiece created by Gladys
Masterpiece created by Gladys

The Alzheimer Society is currently SEEKING 12 PARTICIPANTS with early stage Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and 12 YOUTH VOLUNTEERS for our fall program.  Sessions run from 9:00 – 11:30 am on Saturday, September 7, 14, 21 & 28.  Volunteer training will be provided on Wednesday, September 4 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm.  Spots will be confirmed on a first come-first serve basis so if you or someone you know would benefit from this program, please encourage them to sign up right away.    

Masterpiece created by Bert
Masterpiece created by Bert

The program, which has been offered for over ten years, is designed to stimulate creativity and foster compassion, awareness and community involvement while utilizing proven recreational therapies.  It pairs persons living with early stage dementia and youth volunteers and the process is not only an avenue for expression, but also a chance for skill development, socialization and friendship.

Virginia Bell, M.S.W., has spent much time researching the value of art therapy for persons living with dementia.  She shares the following observations in Activity Programming for Persons with Dementia1:

Creative art projects such as painting, drawing, designing, sculpting, and building provide multiple self-esteem building opportunities for persons with memory loss:

  • The nonverbal language of art free persons who have trouble with the complexity of language
  • Art provides those persons with an opportunity to have some control
  • Art experiences can help persons to feel competent and useful, and continue their lifelong desire for learning and growth
  • Art projects provide an avenue of socialization and a sense of belonging

In closing, Jane Somerton, wife of the late Bert Somerton, had this to say about her husband’s experience with the program:

“I can vouch for the effectiveness of this program.  For three years, my husband Bert participated and it was a wonderful experience without any stress.  Bert thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to socialize while creating art pieces for the Alzheimer Society.” 

On a personal note, my favourite piece from the Alzheimer Society’s art auction last year was in fact Bert’s painting and it now hangs in my home.  Not only does this program bring joy and hope to its participants and volunteers, it also helps to raise awareness for this debilitating disease and put smiles on others’ faces.

Visit www.alzheimer.ca/thunderbay for more information about the program.

Contact Pam at 807-345-9556 (1-888-887-5140) or firstlink@alzheimerthunderbay.ca to register as a participant or youth volunteer.   

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