Art opens windows as dementia closes doors

The light-filled room is replete with remembrances, some unwittingly captured on paintings scattered across the tables, others flitting in and out, coming close, teasing their owners but then darting away.
The eight men and women, in their 70s and 80s, work intently, dipping brushes into Styrofoam cups of water, swirling them into the chosen hue of their watercolor paints, then stroking the color onto paper. Intermittent conversation and laughter interrupt the tranquility.
They are grandmothers and grandfathers, a hydrologist, a children’s vocational nurse, a dentist, an FBI secretary. All in varying stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, they share the painful reality of a fading mind. They’ve come to their weekly painting class, where they sometimes discover lost memories, but always find companionship and joy and moments of peace.
“So much of this disease is hard and sad,” says Sara Spaulding, spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado, whose husband died at 63 in 2010 of Younger Onset Alzheimer’s after battling the disease for 10 years. “This program, however, offers light and laughter … not only to the participants but for their families.”

 

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