Art, music & dancing help the mind and reduce stress.
Episcopal Retirement Services’ Center for Memory Support and Inclusion has been partnering with other Greater Cincinnati organizations to offer helpful programs to people living with dementia and their caregivers. As the world began emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 was a year of growth and new programs for the center.
Shannon Braun, director of the Center for Memory Support and Inclusion, works to create communities for people who are living with dementia – because people who have the disease tend to isolate themselves. That dynamic often causes their significant others and caregivers to be isolated.
Improving brain health through art
One of Braun’s top goals in her role is to create a community among people living with dementia and their caregivers and connect them with organizations and activities happening locally. Many of those activities involve the arts because artistic experiences are helpful for people with memory issues.
There’s a great need, unfortunately, for such help. And the need is growing.
With the number of older adults in the United States climbing, so is the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. An estimated 58 million Americans had various forms of dementia in 2021. That number is projected to grow to 88 million by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Here are some Center of Memory Support and Inclusion highlights from 2022:
Creative Connections offers support
Braun is part of the Giving Voice Foundation, and that partnership offers a program called Creative Connections.
Creative Connections is a group that meets weekly for ten weeks. Caregivers get together in one room as part of a support group. The people living with dementia meet in another room where there is music and movement instructors – perhaps a yoga teacher, physical therapist, or someone else who helps them move in a safe way.
Between each 10-week program, there is a two-week break.
Dancing to Remember offers stress-free fun
Another program is Dancing to Remember, which started in June as a pilot program and following that success, a second was offered this fall.
“It’s been really wonderful,” Braun said about the program that offers dance lessons to those living with various levels of dementia and their caregivers. It offers stress-free, enjoyable dance lessons that allow everybody to break away from the stresses of their daily lives.
The dancers learn new things about each other and learn how to gracefully move around the dance floor, no matter their dancing abilities.
“We’ve partnered with a wonderful woman in Sharonville, Mary Ramirez Cook, who owns a dance studio, and she’s been very gracious to teach dance lessons to our folks,” Braun said. She added that those events, which conclude with celebrations where everyone can invite their families to show their newly learned skills, are very fun.
“The repetitive movement is so great for the brain. It combines social activity, which is so good for the brain, along with physical activity and exercise. People have really connected and gotten to know each other, and it’s been a really great experience.”
Music in Motion is another outlet.
People who participate in the 10-week Creative Connections program came to miss it during the two-week breaks between sessions, so another program called Music in Motion was created, in another partnership with the Giving Voice Foundation, along with the Cincinnati Opera.
“They have an opera singer or a choir director come and sing songs with our group, and then also a yoga instructor to do some chair exercises in between,” Braun said. “It’s really that same theme of music and moving the body, and using all those things that we know to be so beneficial for our bodies and our brains, and creating community in the process.”
Participants enjoy singing with their friends and experience the freedom of expressing themselves musically in a pressure-free way.
With Art in Mind uses the visual arts.
Another program the Center for Memory Support and Inclusion operates is called With Art in Mind.
The center has partnered with the Contemporary Arts Center for a long time in a program where those living with dementia and their caregivers view art exhibits and then create some artworks of their own – another freeing activity that lets people express themselves and have fun.
“We were able in December to have our first program with the Cincinnati Art Museum, and in 2023 we are expanding to the Taft Museum of Art and also the American Sign Museum,” Braun said.
Braun’s dementia-education training for docents and staff at the various museums is a significant benefit of that program, which helps make Greater Cincinnati a more dementia-inclusive place.
“It’s very heartening for me when I do the education, and the training, because the reception is so wonderful,” Braun said. People are energized by it and enthusiastic about it. And it shows me that the community wants this type of information and wants to help expand some of these opportunities for people.”
More programs coming in 2023
Additional programs can be added in 2023 because Episcopal Retirement Services has received additional grant funding from the Sutphin Family Foundation.
Braun said the plan is to offer more opportunities and a greater variety for those with dementia and their care partners.
“We’ll be seeing more of the arts. I think that’s a value-add to any population, especially those with dementia. And more creativity with hopefully some horticulture and more with planting and gardening, and things like that, too.”
“There are lots of fun things coming up,” Braun said.
If you need ideas for a residential memory care setting or support services, we are here to help. Contact us at your convenience to learn more about how our services can help people living with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia lead more engaged lives.