Arts Stimulate Aging Minds

Older adult male drawingEaster Seals Day Break at the Miller Center for Older Adult Services in Winter Park is an adult day health care program providing an affordable alternative to nursing home, group home or in-home care for adults. The program serves individuals who may have a physical or developmental disability, cognitive disorder (such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia), Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis. Day Break also serves frail older adults and those who may be in recovery or rehabilitation following a stroke or traumatic brain injury. Over 90% of Day Break members have some type of memory impairment.

Given modern medicine offers few pharmacological treatments for dementia, Day Break continues to pursue strength-based opportunities to connect with members in meaningful ways. With a goal to move from the mindset of managing behaviors to engaging individuals and building community among members of all abilities, Day Break is expanding arts and wellness programming through additional staffing and specialized training in proven group-based models.

Through a two-year grant of $41,284 from the Winter Park Health Foundation, Day Break is adding a part-time Arts and Wellness Activities Specialist to implement new programming.  Staff will be trained and certified in three nationally-known, group-based arts programs including:

Opening Minds through Art – this intergenerational art program will pair Day Break members with trained volunteers to share artistic inspirations, art supplies, and friendship. Through this 10-week program, members will produce art and may choose to participate in an exhibition showcasing their creative talent.

KAIROS Dancing Heart™ – is an award winning, dance program and a best practice model for working with frail elders. Older adults, their family members and caregivers help co-create a new vision of dance–one that is inclusive of all ages, all bodies, and many different ways of moving, exploring the “language of dance” through movement improvisation, the interweaving of dance and story, and the collaborative development of choreography that draws on their memories and life experiences.

TimeSlips is a group storytelling process which focuses on encouraging people with memory loss to exercise their imaginations and creativity. Members view a photograph or picture and tell the story through their imagination in a highly participatory, non-judgmental environment.

This expansion, made possible by the Winter Park Health Foundation, will build on the success of The Poetry Project and Music and Memory programs already in place at Day Break.  Staff have observed enhanced verbal skills, positive behavioral changes, increased communication and sociability, and less confusion among members as a result of the arts programming.