Opening Minds Through Art Program Starts July 28 

July 11, 2022

Dementia Friendly Community Initiative Seeks Volunteers and Participants  

What if individuals with dementia were valued for their artistry and imagination instead of marginalized due to lost memories and skills? That is the premise behind Opening Minds Through Art (OMA). OMA is an award-winning evidence-based program for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of neurocognitive disorders.  

OMA was founded by Dr. Elizabeth “Like” Lokon at Scripps Gerontology at Miami University. People with dementia are paired with volunteers (community members, students, families, caregivers) who are trained to rely on imagination instead of memory and focus on remaining strengths instead of lost skills. OMA enables people with dementia to assume new roles as artists and teachers and leave a legacy of beautiful artwork.  

Sue Ruka, RN, PhD, administrator for the ACL grant that is funding this program locally, explained, “Aging does not mean losing our humanity. OMA allows people to remain creative and express themselves uniquely even with memory issues.”

OMA is based on the understanding that people remain creative and need to express themselves, even when memory issues arise. Instead, when this happens, they need new and different ways to engage. Art is a way to do this when other forms of expression are not possible.

The OMA process accesses what people with dementia have in the moment and doesn’t rely on faculties that are diminished or absent. It honors the individual. It helps people produce rich, layered compositions. The art reflects the individual making the creative decisions, instead of producing cookie-cutter projects that come from being told what it should look like.

OMA is being offered as part of the Mount Washington Valley Dementia-Friendly Community initiative funded through a three-year ACL grant. OMA’s first session at the Gibson Center for Senior Services starts Thursday, July 28 and runs weekly through August 25, 12:30pm-1:15pm. To register for free, call 603-356-3231.

The program is still recruiting volunteers as well. Ruka added, “This presents a wonderful opportunity for college students home for the summer looking to do work that is meaningful and enjoyable.”  Volunteers receive complete in-person and online training in preparation for working with local artists. Those interested in volunteering can also call 603-356-3231 for more information. 

Memorial Hospital received a three-year grant from Administration for Community Living (ACL) to support valley agencies assisting residents and their families living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease or caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s.Partners in this effort include MaineHealth Partnership for Healthy Aging, Mount Washington Valley Adult Day Center, The Gibson Center for Senior Services and Visiting Nurse Home Care & Hospice of Carroll County. For more information on OMA, go to https://scrippsoma.org/.