Second Annual Arts and Wellness Symposium Held at UCF

Caregiver story photoA crowd of over 150 people came to learn more about the role the arts may soon play in assisting family caregivers at the Second Annual Arts and Wellness Symposium, held on October 2 at UCF.  Linda Chapin, former Mayor of Orange County, was the Honorary Chair of the event which featured a keynote presentation delivered by geriatric psychiatrist and author Marc Agronin, M.D.

The event showcased the work of master artists from five states and the District of Columbia who have been working on the Caregiver Resource Initiative, a project of the National Center for Creative Aging.  The artists represent nationally recognized evidence-based programs that are offered in group settings to people with memory loss as a means to express themselves and connect with others.  For the past year, the team of artists has been creating the curriculum for making arts-based activities available to family caregivers, outside of a group setting.

“We know from group-based programming that the arts have proven to be an effective way to reach people with dementia. It is time that family caregivers who are taking care of their loved ones at home have access to these activities as they search for ways to make meaningful connections,” said Diana Silvey, Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) Program Director, Older Adults. “This initiative will result in a toolkit that will be available online after testing is complete.  Central Florida has been a leader in this effort thanks to Winter Park resident Margery Pabst-Steinmetz, President of the Pabst Charitable Foundation for the Arts. ”

In addition to securing support from the Pabst Foundation, the toolkit is also being supported by several other foundations in the U.S., including the Helen Bader Foundation and the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation. Toolkit activities will be implemented locally and evaluated to determine their effectiveness.

Community convenings such as the recent symposium are the primary means to generate public awareness around this issue and highlight the work that is taking place.  The symposium was supported by the Pabst Foundation in collaboration with the Bryce L. West Foundation and WPHF.  Diana Silvey was a member of the symposium planning committee.

Also in attendance were several UCF College of Medicine students. They are members of the school’s Arts in Medicine (AIM) organization, a student-run group committed to uniting the arts and sciences throughout Central Florida and health care.  They spoke about the many opportunities the College of Medicine has embraced as part of their unique and innovative approach to training the next generation of physicians.

Stay tuned for more information as initial testing is completed and the research concludes.  The goal is to have the toolkit ready for the decennial White House Conference on Aging to be held in 2015.