Pictured here is the artwork created by Gladys DuGray titled Colors.
photo submitted

Pictured here is the artwork created by Gladys DuGray titled Colors. photo submitted

‘Opening Minds Through Art’ launched by Rimbey FCSS

The program was founded by Dr. Elizabeth ‘Like’ Lokon and is grounded in person-centered care principles

Rimbey FCSS has launched an exciting new art-based program called ‘Opening Minds Through Art’ (OMA).

“Opening Minds Through Art is an art-based program for anyone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s,” said Jamie Coston, volunteer coordinator with Rimbey FCSS who also facilitates the program along with Tresa Lowe.

“It builds social connections, and it also helps to change the brain pathways, helping people to respond and to communicate in an artistic way,” she said.

“We pair them with volunteers one on one. And it’s amazing what it does,” she said. “They get into a flow doing the art, and it’s calming,” she added. “It’s also creating within them a capacity to use their brains in a healthy and non-demanding way,” she said, adding that OMA programs are currently running in Lacombe and Calgary as well.

Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, OMA will run in Rimbey on a regular basis and facilitators will be able to work with bigger groups of people.

Until then, organizers are planning to hold virtual sessions.

Just recently, a community volunteer, Gladys DuGray, popped in to take part in a session, and Coston said it went extremely well.

Not only did DuGray have a wonderful time creating some art, but she also enjoyed the opportunity to have a visit and simply do something recreational out in the community.

According to the web site, “Opening Minds through Art (OMA) is an award-winning, evidence-based, intergenerational art-making program for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of neurocognitive disorders. It’s a failure-free program that provides opportunities for creative self-expression and social engagement for people with dementia.

“OMA also provides volunteers with opportunities to improve their attitudes toward aging through the weekly interaction with OMA program participants.”

The program was founded by Dr. Elizabeth ‘Like’ Lokon in 2007 and is grounded in person-centered care principles.

“People with dementia (artists) are paired with volunteers (students, families, caregivers) who are trained to rely on imagination instead of memory and focus on remaining strengths instead of lost skills,” noted the site. “OMA enables people with dementia to assume new roles as artists and teachers and leave a legacy of beautiful artwork. OMA has been widely replicated.”

Norma Bauer, who facilitates the Adult Day Support Program through the Rimbey FCSS office, is helping out with OMA as a volunteer – assisting clients with the various projects.

“My role as a volunteer is to encourage and assist the clients with the art work – we plan ahead of time what we are going to be doing with the art. We give them the supplies and then encourage and assist them – we don’t do it for them, but we give them choices,” she explained, adding that sometimes, clients may not have confidence in themselves as artists.

“But it turns out beautifully!”

Bauer said that during the course of doing the art, memories can also surface of earlier days when the clients may have explored art as youngsters.

“Whatever memory they may have, we expand on that,” she said. “Did you have a favourite colour when you were little, or what did you like to do? It’s a really great program.”

This program has been made possible by a Community Innovation grant from Alberta Health Services.

If you or someone you know would like to volunteer or register for this program, contact Jamie Coston at the FCSS office by calling 403-843-2030.

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Tresa Lowe and Jamie Coston, OMA facilitators, passed virtual training and a final test on March 31st.
photo submitted

Tresa Lowe and Jamie Coston, OMA facilitators, passed virtual training and a final test on March 31st. photo submitted

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