An innovative art therapy program for Central New York seniors with memory loss is getting a boost to expand its reach. The Alzheimer's Foundation of America has awarded a $5,000 grant to Syracuse Jewish Family Service for its Arts and Minds initiative. SJFS director Judith Huober says art can help to bypass any cognitive challenges and be a stimulating social experience.
"It's not about right or wrong. It really doesn't matter where you put a color, a form, or a circle. People express their emotions very freely by using color, movement, and texture...all of the traditional things we think about when we think of art."
Huober says the older adults in the program are paired with younger volunteers for support. She says it’s not a typical art program…it requires a highly trained staff and quality materials.
"That's one things what makes what we do differrent. We're not giving them crayons. We're giving them real art materials and helping them delight in what happens when they experiment with them in a structured way."
She says it’s well-worth the providing pleasure to those who might deny themselves the experience for cognitive or financial reasons.
"'Gee, I never allowed myself to play this way. I never allowed myself to try this. I don't think this is going to work, especially now at this stage in my life.' A lot of negativity and negative expectations. Instead, they're saying, 'I had no idea I could do this. I had no idea this would be so much fun.'"
Huober says they hope to eventually expand the Arts and Minds program from the current 40 older adults to 80, including locations outside of Menorah Park and related senior centers.