DIDSBURY - An intergenerational art program is bringing together clients of Didsbury Integrated Home Care and students from Didsbury High School's (DHS) leadership class.
Brandee Elliott, recreational therapist for Didsbury Integrated Home Care, brought the Opening Minds through Art (OMA) program to Didsbury after training in Calgary with the program creators from Miami University of Ohio.
"The mission of the program is to build bridges across age and cognitive barriers through art," said Elliott. "The program is an intergenerational art program for people with cognitive barriers or dementia.
"I was able to partner with the leadership class at DHS through connecting with their teacher Cali Beazly. Students received specific training which included knowledge on aging, dementia, communication, and art making process."
Elliott said the students then became AHS volunteers and are paired with 10 clients from home care for an eight-week program.
The program began on Oct. 5 and will wrap up on Nov. 30 from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at Unit 3 Auditorium, by the Didsbury Hospital, with a formal art show and sale open to the public.
All proceeds from the art show will go back into subsequent OMA programs, she said.
"The purpose of the program is to promote social engagement, autonomy and dignity through the experience of creative self-expression," she said.
"The larger purpose is to create social change within the younger generations - to create environments of acceptance, communication and love."
Although she was reluctant at first, integrated home care participant Hazel Segstro from Carstairs is now a big fan of the program.
"It's a very, very nice program," said Segstro. "It's something everybody should be doing at. I am enjoying it immensely."
Segstro was very appreciative as well for her art partner Haley Nichols from DHS, who is also enjoying the program.
"It's incredible to see the change from the beginning and throughout," said Nichols. "When we first started Hazel did not want to come and now she looks forward to it every week.
"She practically jumps out of her seat when I pick her up. It's just so incredible to see the change."
Segstro said, "I said I couldn't paint, but it's just abstract painting, you don't have to paint pictures. It's really enjoyable. You don't have time to worry about anything except what you're doing."
Funding for the program came from both the Didsbury Ladies Auxiliary and the Alzheimer Society of Calgary.